Official Languages of Belgium

As a melting pot of cultures and traditions, Belgium has three official languages – Dutch, French, and German.

Belgium Map with known cities and airports

Brussels: A Multilingual Mosaic

The capital city, Brussels, is an extraordinary microcosm of diversity, serving as the de facto capital of the European Union. As a bilingual region, Brussels embraces both French and Dutch as official languages. You can find these multilingual street name sign boards everywhere, in French (above) and Dutch (below).

Sometimes you’ll be surprised how different the same city names can be in these two languages…

street name board

Multilingualism is ingrained in its cosmopolitan atmosphere, with English being widely spoken, too, making it a hub for international communication. Restaurant menus are often written in multiple languages for your convenience.

restaurant menu in brusels

North Belgium: Dutch

Dutch, often referred to as Flanders (Flemish), is the most widely spoken language in the northern region of Belgium, including Bruges, Antwerp, Gent, Leuven, Oostende and Blankenberge. As the native tongue of approximately 60% of Belgians, Dutch shapes daily life, education, and business affairs in this part of the country.

South Belgium: French

In the southern region of Wallonia, French gracefully prevails as the dominant language. With around 40% of Belgians speaking French, this Romance language permeates Wallonia’s artistic flair, gastronomy, and administrative processes.

East Belgium: German

Though German is less prevalent, it still plays a significant role in the tiny eastern region of Belgium – the German-speaking Community. Nestled amidst verdant hills and quaint villages, this area is a linguistic gem where German holds sway in official matters and daily interactions.

Is English an official language of Belgium?

English is not an official language of Belgium, however it is widely understood, especially in tourist destinations all over Belgium. In addition, Belgian people speak English fluently. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, the equity of English language skills of adults in Belgium is considered as “very high”.

Do I need to know official languages when traveling around Belgium?

English is generally sufficient for traveling, but showing a willingness to engage with the local languages, such as “Hello” and “Thank you”, can enrich your experience and foster positive interactions with the locals.

Language and Identity in Belgium

Language is a pivotal part of Belgian identity, and its significance extends beyond mere communication. It reflects historical, political, and cultural influences that have shaped the nation’s development. Embracing and preserving each language is essential in maintaining Belgium’s unique tapestry of traditions.

As you wander through charming towns and vibrant cities, take a moment to relish the unique linguistic symphony that echoes through the captivating landscapes of this enchanting country.