The unity of Belgium has been put to question by several affairs. One of them, and perhaps the most important one, is the linguistic issue. Belgium is a State which has a vast cultural diversity. This is reflected in the several languages which are spoken inside its territory (German, French and Dutch).



                         (Jansson, 2016)                        (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2018)

As we can see, according to the graph obtained from Britannica, practically half of the population speaks Flemish or Dutch, 36.4 percent French, and only around 1% of the population speaks German, which makes sense, given the small size of the German-speaking part of Belgium. Other languages are spoken in Belgium, the most important one being Luxembourgish, which is spoken in the area of Wallonia which borders with the County of Luxembourg (the State), which is also called the region of Luxembourg.

This linguistic diversity has been the source of many conflicts. It mainly originated with the fact that French was, for a long time, the only official language of the country. Those regions of Belgium which did not speak French were thought to have a lower social status.

The constant rejection of Flemish identity and the Dutch language led to a very separated Belgium. Society started splitting into completely separate social structures.

By the time Dutch started the path of officialization (at the end of the XIX th century), it was too late to mend historical differences. Walloons kept rejecting the establishment of Dutch at an official level, partly because of the social division, and partly because they felt threatened. While the Flemish had been forced to acquire knowledge of both languages, Walloons had never felt the need to learn Dutch. This could allow Flanders’ inhabitants to have better access to administrative positions.

Although the evolution of the linguistic conflict has seen different periods, the crucial event was the modification of the Constitution of 1831 (for further information see: 3.2. BELGIUM: FROM CENTRALIZATION TO DECENTRALIZATION.).

Nowadays, the federalization of Belgium has distanced linguistic communities even more, through the delegation of competences and the decentralization of the Belgian government.

This video explains why Belgium is so divided.


  1. Jansson, B. (2016, December 27). What is Wallonia? Belgium’s Unusual Federal System. Retrieved from Political Geography Now: https://www.polgeonow.com/2016/12/what-is-wallonia-in-belgium.html
  2. . Encyclopædia Britannica. (2018, December 3). Ethnic groups and languages. (Britannica, Encyclopædia) Retrieved December 2018, from Encyclopædia Britannica:                                                  https://www.britannica.com/place/Belgium/Ethnic-groups-and-languages


  1. Benz, W., Graml, H., Henke, K.-D., Loth, W., Raulff, H., Robel, G., & Woller, H. (1986). Los Estados del Benelux. In W. Benz, H. Graml, K.-D. Henke, W. Loth, H. Raulff, G. Robel, & H. Woller, Historia Universal Siglo XX: el siglo XX; II. Europa después de la segunda guerra mundial 1945-1982. Tomo 1 (pp. 150-154). España: Siglo XXI de España Editores, S.A.

  2. Berentsen, W. H., Danta, D., Diem, A., Hoffman, G., Malmström, V., Poulsen, T. M., . . . ZumBrunnen, C. (2000). Bélgica. In W. H. Berentsen, D. Danta, A. Diem, G. Hoffman, V. Malmström, T. M. Poulsen, . . . C. ZumBrunnen, Europa Contemporánea: Un análisis geográfico (pp. 345-354). Barcelona: Ediciones Omega, S.A.


  1. Escuela de Periodismo UAM – El País. (2012, December 17). Flandes y Valonia: un matrimonio que no se separa por los hijos. Retrieved from El País: https://elpais.com/elpais/2012/12/31/masterdeperiodismo/1355227676_045611.html



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