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Schools are the key to more Dutch in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels
Knowledge of Dutch in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels has decreased slightly. This is confirmed by the second Language Barometer for the Flemish Periphery around Brussels. Dutch is under great pressure in the northern and southern Canal Zone. The language situation in the “employment municipalities” of Vilvoorde, Machelen and Zaventem is deteriorating. The decrease is entirely on account of (French-speaking) Belgians. Knowledge of our language is increasing among non-EU citizens in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels. “The newcomers to Belgium are apparently better Belgians than the French speakers: they adapt better,” says Minister of the Flemish Periphery around Brussels Ben Weyts. “One ray of hope is also that the Flemish schools are clearly providing for more Dutch in our Periphery.”
Knowledge is decreasing
Knowledge of Dutch has decreased slightly in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels over the past four years. The number of inhabitants of the 19 municipalities of the Flemish Periphery around Brussels whose Dutch is good to excellent has dropped from 69.6% in 2014 to 68.5% today. This decrease is however limited when you take into account that the population growth - between 2013 and 2018 the population grew by 2.3% - is almost entirely due to non-native speakers. The number of Belgians born and raised in the Periphery has decreased considerably, while the number of naturalised Belgians, EU citizens and non-EU citizens has increased.
Brussels oil slick
The decline in knowledge of Dutch is entirely due to the (non-Dutch-speaking) Belgians. In this group, knowledge of Dutch has decreased from 77.5% (2014) to 76.3% (now). Among non-EU citizens, knowledge of Dutch has on the other hand increased from 14.6% (2014) to 24.5% (now). Moreover, the decline in knowledge of Dutch is almost entirely situated in the so-called “employment municipalities” of Vilvoorde, Machelen and Zaventem, where urbanisation from Brussels can be felt strongly.
Knowledge of Dutch has improved in the municipalities with language facilities. “Our efforts in the municipalities with language facilities are bearing fruit, but the classic Brussels oil slick is now spreading to other municipalities,” says Ben Weyts. “The employment municipalities of Vilvoorde, Machelen and Zaventem now need positive Flemish projects. That is precisely why I see value in the Broeksite, for example, which will also be given a cultural interpretation and can thus become an additional source for community life.”
Schools are the key to more Dutch
The Language Barometer also confirms that the Flemish schools in the Periphery are a good engine for Dutch. Anyone who opts for Dutch-language education, even if another language is spoken at home, has a much greater chance of using Dutch at home as well in the longer term. “This offers opportunities,” says Ben Weyts. “It is through the school gates that we can lead not only children but also their parents into the Flemish community. A choice for Dutch-language education should not only be a choice for your children’s future career; it should also be a choice for Dutch-speaking community life. We can support this by offering more Dutch courses for adults within the school walls, while childcare is provided for the children, for example. There are already 21 such projects in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels.”
The Brussels Information, Documentation and Research Centre (BRIO) has been commissioned by the Flemish Government to set up a Language Barometer that outlines the language situation in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels. The first Language Barometer appeared in 2015. Now the second Language Barometer survey is also ready. Between January and September 2018, 2,410 adults from the Flemish Periphery around Brussels were interviewed.