Basically, I need to know if a random person on the street in Belgium would be as likely to speak Dutch as they are to speak French. Thank you!

  • 3
    The street (or zipcode) where you are going to randomly pick someone is likely to have a major influence to what language(s) (s)he speaks.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 10 '17 at 1:02
  • I’m sorry for not being sure of what you’re asking, but are you asking 1) “What percentage of Belgians can speak both French and Dutch/Flemish?” (i.e., What are the odds of encountering a Belgian who can speak both languages?) OR 2) “What percentage of Belgians speak French (but not Dutch/Flemish) and vice versa?” (I interpret your question as asking #1.)
    – Papa Poule
    Mar 10 '17 at 14:37
  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about a country's culture, not about the French language itself.
    – Kareen
    Mar 10 '17 at 20:10
  • I agree it would have been best suited to the travel.SE site although this question has nevertheless some indirect relationship with the French language as she is spoke, or not ...
    – jlliagre
    Mar 11 '17 at 15:32
  • 2
    I don't think it is off topic. It's talking about the distribution of the French language in the world, which can be part of this SE. It is not about the "culture" but expressly about the French language in a given country.
    – Frank
    Mar 14 '17 at 19:12

That's a sensitive subject.

As I wrote in my first comment, the language spoken is highly linked to the place where you live, with a few mixed language areas, essentially in the Flanders part closest to Brussels, where the trend is an increase of French speakers.

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(Source & Legend)

While being officially bilingual, Brussels-capital region itself is mostly French speaking, only ~7% exclusively speak Dutch at home.

Precise numbers aren't available because it is forbidden by Belgian law to poll citizens about their native languages (just like ethnic or religious statistics are forbidden in France). All existing statistics are based on indirect measurements.

It is estimated that between 40% and 43% of Belgium are native French speakers and native Dutch speakers are between 57% à 60%, and less than 1% native German speakers.

Another issue is that even while someone might know the « other » language in addition to his native one, he might not show you it is the case and refuse to speak it. This is especially true for a minority of radical Flemish.

I believe most Dutch speaking Belgians understand and are able to communicate in French but that less French speaking Belgians can do the same with Dutch, although almost all can understand and say basic sentences.

In the German speaking area, almost everybody is bilingual German-French and very few issues exist, if any.

Finally, if you wan't to avoid being involved in any linguistic trouble and you don't speak the official language of the area where you are, English is well known and spoken everywhere, usually better than in France.


Someone with better knowledge of Belgium will likely blow this answer out of the water, but:

The Britannica says French speakers are 35-40% and Dutch 50-55%. This also corresponds more or less with Index Mundi, which gives these figures 40% and 60% respectively. More sources will help confirm these numbers. But anyhow, looks pretty even, but still a little more Dutch than French on average. Of course, these numbers are probably based on native language, not possible second languages. It may be, for example, that if all the French speakers have a passing command of Dutch then your chances of being understood in Dutch are much higher than in French.

I like jlliagre's point that the question of location is probably more useful. Wikipedia says that Brussels, for example, is 60% native speakers of French and less than 20% Dutch, and that's still very coarse-grained... this article may help identify particular municipalities' primary languages.

  • 3
    Also, if you look at the Wikipedia entry on "languages of Belgium", you'll see that the geographical distribution of speakers seems really clear cut: north-Dutch, south-French, hence jlliagre's comment :-)
    – Frank
    Mar 10 '17 at 6:33
  • Thank you very much ! Yes i needed to know what percent of people speak Dutch in Belgium as well as French . I thought everyone there speaks French but not everyone speaks Dutch. Thank you for help!
    – vita
    Mar 10 '17 at 18:52

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