24 Feb 2008
BELGIUM and it's languages
I invite you to come with me for A visit to Manneken Pis in Brussels
This little red spot on the Europe map is Belgium
and so looks a close up. If you drive about 200 km(124 miles) to 250 km(155) to South, North, East or West you arrive at a border. France, Holland, Germany and Luxembourg.
This little country is devided into three regions,
Flemish speaking part (Flanders) French speaking part (Wallonia) and the little red spot is Brussels, where both languages are spoken.
Of course both parts have a regional government. That leads sometimes to quite funny situations.
If there is smog the highway speed is reduced to 90 km/h. If you don't respect it you get a fine of € 40 in Flanders but only a warning in Wallonia. Concretely it would look like this for me :
15 km Waterloo - Brussels = 5 min high speed, 5 min at 90km 10 min high speed and this way I could drive through the whole country.
The weather too is different. I am living at the border between Flanders and Wallonia. After our garden we are in Flanders. When I listen to the french speaking weatherman, he would say (for example) it is 10 ° and sunshine. I listen to the flemish speaking weatherman and there it is 11° and cloudy. I look out of my garden and it's 14° and it rains even after the "border". This is really quite strange.
There are a lot of other absurd linguistic things. If you live in the french part of the country and want to send your child to a flemish school to become bilingual (that's what the politicians praise every day) you are not allowed. The school is only for children living in this town.
The traffic signs for city names are also very difficult especially for tourists. If you want to drive to the walloonish city Mons, in the flemish part it is named Bergen or Lille (France) becomes Rijsel ! How can a poor stranger find his way ??
When I go to Antwerpen which is a flemish town, I speak english or german but not french because I don't want to meet some fanatic flemish who pretends he can't speak french. But it has also happened to me that some of them ask " do you speak french ?"
I only hope the next generation will be more intelligent !