Posts

Dutch or French? The Line Between the Two Threatens to Divide Belgium

Belgium is like two countries rolled up into one-French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders. Soon, the tension between the two may split the country apart.

French and Dutch spoken in Belgium

The conflict between the two language groups goes back to when the country was founded in the 19th century. At that time, the country’s ruling class spoke French. In fact, if you wanted to be anyone in Belgium, you had to learn to speak French even if you grew up speaking Dutch. However, the majority of the people in Flanders, a slim majority of the population Belgian population as a whole, speaks Dutch (or Flemish). Over time, the Flemings were able to make Dutch the official language of Flanders, while French remained the official language of Wallonia.

A recent article in The Guardian describes just how fragile this linguistic compromise has become: Walloons and Flemings live apart, work apart and generally don’t marry. In the few bilingual communities, French-speaking students learn in separate classrooms from their Dutch-speaking counterparts. The tension between the two groups has left the government crippled.

The article quotes Jeroen Vermeiren, a Flemish bookseller just outside Brussels, who reassured the newspaper that:

“We won’t fall into madness, like Serbia and Croatia. But it creates great emotions on both sides.”

The Guardian wryly notes that while the two halves of Belgium are divided by language and culture, there is something that unites them: the national debt. The article compares the two sides to:

“a couple trapped in a loveless marriage, eyeing divorce but unable to agree on the mortgage liabilities,” and says that “the Flemings and the Walloons may be stuck together because of the cost of splitting up.”

Shared debt is not a good foundation for a country any more than it is for a marriage. Hopefully, the two sides are able to work something out and move ahead amicably, either as fellow citizens or just as neighbors.

closest to English

Which Languages Are Closest to English?

Have you ever wondered which languages are most closely related to English? Well, wonder no more! Here are the 5 languages that linguists say are the most closely related to English. Some of them might surprise you…

The Closest Language to English: Scotsscotslanguagemap

The closest language to English is Scots . . . assuming you consider Scots a language, that is. According to a 2010 study by the Scottish government, a majority (64%) of Scottish people don’t.

And yet, Scots began to diverge from English as far as back as the Middle English period.  The UK government classifies it as a regional language and it is protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Fast Facts About the Scots Language

  • Scots is spoken by about 1.5 million people
  • Technically, the Scots alphabet has one more letter than the English alphabet. The last letter, called yough, looks like a backward “3.” The letter “z” usually replaces it.
  •  Scots has been primarily an oral language for so long that it does not have a standard spelling system.

Scots is not only the closest relative of the English language, it’s also been heavily influenced by its “big brother.” So, how easy is it for an English speaker to read Scots? Try it for yourself!

Aw human sowels is born free and equal in dignity and richts. They are tochered wi mense and conscience and shuld guide theirsels ane til ither in a speirit o britherheid.

Got that? It’s Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here’s the English translation:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Read more