What Languages Are Spoken in Belgium?

Belgium’s three official languages are Dutch, French and German, with six regional and minority languages fast following their linguistic trail.

With Belgium being so abundant in languages, you know there’s some fascinating history to explore. 

In this post, we dive deep into the nine Belgium languages, the country’s linguistic diversity, history and geography of Belgium.

Please note: The number of speakers of each language are expressed as a percentage of Belgium’s population, which is roughly 11,700,000 people. 


What Language Do They Speak in Belgium?

Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll hear them in the same places.

In Brussels—the capital city—you’ll mainly only hear Dutch and French.

This also doesn’t mean everyone in Belgium is trilingual: 60% of the population speak Dutch as a first language, making it the most widely spoken language, around 40% speak French and only a small minority (mainly in eastern Belgium) speak German.

There are also regional dialects, such as Walloon and Picard (more on this later on the post!).

Languages Spoken in Belgium

infographic map of the nine languages spoken in Belgium and where they are spoken 1. Dutch

Number of native speakers: 55% of the population

Number of second-language speakers: 16% of the population

Dutch has the most native speakers in Belgium, with approximately 55% of Belgians speaking Dutch as a first language.

It’s often called Flemish Dutch because of its heavy influence from the 19th-century Flemish Movement, making it slightly different from the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands.

However, the Belgium senate didn’t consider making Dutch an official language until almost the 20th century.

This was because Dutch carried a political stigma—it was the language of King William I, the Protestant monarch from whom Catholic-majority Belgium had recently gained its independence.

2. French

Number of native speakers: 39% of the population

Number of second-language speakers: 49% of the population

The Brussels-Capital Region and the City of Brussels are Dutch-French bilingual.

In the southern part of Belgium (known as Wallonia), French is natively spoken by about 39% of the population. This isn’t surprising, given the political and military history.

Only 35 years before Belgian independence, France had annexed much of modern-day Belgium under Napoleonic rule. At the time of the Belgian Revolution, French was deemed the language of the court and well-educated elite.

For French speakers traveling to Bruxelles (Brussels), French is the predominant language in this very international city, with about 80% of its population speaking it.

3. German

Number of native speakers: 1% of the population

Number of second-language speakers: 22% of the population

Modern German is the third official language of Belgium. However, it’s only spoken natively by 1% of the Belgian population.

Belgium’s German speakers are usually in the East Cantons, a sliver of land bordering Germany.

Nine communes in this part of Wallonia proclaim German as their official language, and two more offer accommodations for educational and administrative purposes.

Also, keep in mind that the German spoken in Belgium is slightly different from the German in Germany.

If you want to learn German to go to a German-speaking Belgian region, or you have German-speaking friends or family from these regions, I recommend learning with as many Belgian-focused resources as possible.

4. Regional and Minority Languages

Belgium is home to numerous regional and minority languages, which tend to be closely related to Dutch, French and German.

Walloon, Champenois, Lorrain (Gaumais) and Picard are related to French.

Yiddish and Moselle Franconian (with relative dialects in Low Dietsch, Ripuarian and Southeast Limburgish) are related to German.


Number of native speakers: 6% of the population

Primarily spoken in the province of Liege—with only 6% being spoken in Brabant-Wallon, Namur, northern parts of Luxembourg and the eastern part of Hainaut—Walloon is considered “definitely endangered” by the UNESCO “Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger” and a minority language.


Number of native speakers: <1% of the population

Champenois is primarily spoken in Vresse-sur-Semois in the Namur province of Belgium, where it’s spoken by less than 1% of the population.

As the name indicates, it’s also spoken in the province of Champagne in France. (It can be found in Île-de-France, as well.) Sadly, UNESCO rates Champenois as a severely endangered language.

Lorrain (Gaumais)

Number of native speakers: <1% of the population

Less than 1% Lorrain speakers are found in the far southeast corner of Belgium—primarily in a town called Gaume—where it’s a recognized regional language called Gaumais.


Number of native speakers: 2% of the population

As of 1990, Picard was recognized in Belgium’s French community as a regional language.

Unfortunately, like several of its sister languages—and numerous minor Romance languages in the region—Picard is seriously endangered, with only 2% of the population speaking it.

Even in France’s la région Picardie (the Picardy region), relatively few speakers are left.

Moselle Franconian

Number of native speakers: <1% of the population

Moselle Franconian is related to Luxembourgish, an official language in Luxembourg and a recognized minority language in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

Relative dialects and variants include:

  • The Ripuarian dialect (spoken in Liège)
  • Low Dietsch variant (from the Duchy of Limburg)
  • Southeast Limburgish dialect (heard in the town of Eynatten, in the far northeast corner of Belgium)
  • Eifelisch (a variety of Moselle Franconian that towers above the others spoken in Belgium)


Number of native speakers: <1% of the population

Yiddish has been spoken in Belgium for over 750 years. It plays a prominent role in the Jewish community and has deep roots in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city.

Beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing through the travails of life under Spanish, Austrian, French and Dutch rule, the Yiddish speakers of Belgium continue to operate schools, synagogues, professional associations and political groups.

However, less than 1% of the population now speaks it.

Additional International Languages Spoken in Belgium

Like many countries, Belgium has gone through phases of more liberal immigration policies, followed by immigration restrictions.

Here’s an interesting and impactful timeline of Belgiums’ demographic and immigration history:

  • 1960s: Belgium’s work-permit policies attracted immigrants from Turkey, North Africa and Southern Europe. By the end of the 1960s, the Belgian government began closing its doors to immigrant workers.
  • Mid-1970s: Increased unemployment and the economic recession forced Belgium to limit the number of immigrants it could accept.
  • Mid-1980s: Fast forward 10 years, and Belgium—by the mid-1980s—was once again freely welcoming immigrants and naturalizing citizens. Belgium has accepted more economic immigrants and asylum-seekers. As a result, the ethnic and linguistic mix of the country has changed dramatically in recent years.
  • As of 2022: With a population of over 11.6 million, over 1.5 million are registered foreign nationals in Belgium.

Modern immigrant languages spoken mostly as a second language—with a small percentage spoken as a first language—now include:

  • English (native: 2%, second language: 55%)
  • Spanish (native: 5%)
  • Italian (native: 2%, second language: 1%)
  • Arabic (native: 3%, second language: 1%)
  • Turkish (native: 1%)

The increase of Brussels residents who speak English as a second language has risen to 38% as of 2022.

This is partly due to Brussels’ minister Rudi Vervoort’s suggestion in 2013 that English should be made the Brussels-Capital region’s official language.

Taking a different approach, Brussels’ Plan Marnix (Marnix Plan) administrators propose that city-dwellers try to learn each others’ languages, bridging gaps of understanding by becoming multilingual.

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How History and Geography Impacted Belgium Languages

  • Geographical location. Belgium is a small country that borders France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands—one of the main reasons languages like French and Dutch are so prevalent.
  • The Low Countries years. Before Belgium existed as a modern nation, it was part of the Low Countries as early as the Roman Empire. Belgian port cities welcomed tradesmen, artists, bankers and merchants from many foreign lands. And with them, their languages.
  • Belgian independence in 1830. When Belgium became independent, its borders included regions where numerous languages—including Dutch, French and variations of both—were spoken. Many descendants of the people inhabiting these border regions still speak their ancestors’ languages, albeit in more contemporary forms.
  • Immigration and war. From the Battle of Waterloo to the Battle of the Bulge, Belgium has experienced centuries of incursions and immigrant settlements from neighboring countries. Belgium was often the battleground in the power struggles of early modern Europe. This tradition continued well into the 20th century.
  • World War I and II. Being strategically placed between significant military, economic and political powers, Belgium’s neutrality didn’t spare it from the devastation and cultural changes imposed by warfare. Germany invaded it in World War I—and then again 36 years later in World War II.

FAQs About Belgium Languages

Can I Get By with English in Belgium?

English is widely spoken in Belgium, especially in the Flanders and Brussels regions. According to a report by EF Education First, around 55% of the Belgian population can speak English conversationally.

However, this varies by region. The language barrier is steeper in Wallonia than in Flanders, for example.

I’d recommend using an app—Duolingo, etc.—to learn some basic French before your trip.

How Many Languages Are Spoken in Belgium?

Three languages are officially spoken in Belgium—Dutch, French and German.

What Language is Mostly Spoken in Belgium?

Dutch is the most widely spoken language in Belgium, with approximately 60% of the population speaking it as their first language.

Is Flemish the Same as Dutch?

Flemish is a dialect of Dutch spoken in the northern region of Belgium known as Flanders, while Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands. They’re similar but have differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.


Belgium might have three official languages, but the full story of the languages spoken within its petite frame is much more complex.

If you find yourself in Belgium, immerse yourself in its language and diverse history.

Belgium’s future is still unfolding, and its old and new tales are told in a myriad of tongues.

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