English use rises in Brussels, French on the decline

The use of English in Brussels is on the rise, according to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel's Taalbarometer survey. Almost half of the people living in Brussels are now fluent in English. Dutch is also on the rise in the capital, while the proportion of French speakers continues to decline.

The fifth edition of the VUB study shows that English is increasingly consolidating its position as the second language of contact in Brussels. 46.9 per cent of people surveyed can speak English.

According to Brussels minister for Multilingualism Sven Gatz, the results could provide support for making English an official language of administration in the region. "Politicians should see this as a sign that English should be officially used at the administrative level," he told The Brussels Times.

Dutch reverses decline

Dutch has reversed its decline, rising from 16.3 per cent in 2018 to 22.3 per cent in 2023. This is still much lower than the 33.3 per cent in 2001 and the 28.3 per cent in 2007. French remains the main language of contact in the region, with 81 per cent of respondents using it. However, its use has fallen by more than 6 per cent compared to 2018.

The top three contact languages are followed by Spanish (22.3 per cent), Arabic (11.5 per cent), Italian (6.1 per cent), German (6.1 per cent), Portuguese and Turkish (both 2.8 per cent) and Romanian, a fast growing language in Brussels, at 2.1 per cent.

Another finding is that about half of the Brussels population now speaks two contact languages. At the same time, the number of residents who do not speak French, Dutch or English has also increased.



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