Dutch-speaking parents told spelling of newborn's name 'does not exist'

Dutch-speaking parents told spelling of newborn's name 'does not exist'
The civil registry office in downtown Brussels. Credit: Google Street View

A Dutch-speaking couple had to spend hours at the civil registrations office explaining how to spell their newborn's name to personnel who were not fluent in Dutch and who told them their chosen spelling "did not exist."

In a series of tweets, Dutch-speaker Inès Boukhalfa expressed frustration at the fact that, despite requesting an appointment in Dutch, they were received by a non-Dutch speaking employee.

Boukhalfa said a 3-hour discussion with the personnel was necessary to "get [her] sonf's name spelled correctly in the population register," pointing out how employees could receive people in French or Arabic, but not in Dutch.

The couple's chosen name for their son started with the ij digraph which occurs in the Dutch language and which sees both letters capitalised if the digraph occurs at the start of a word.

Calling out the city's official Twitter account, Boukhalfa's partner told Bruzz that both an employee and their supervisor refused to create a certificate for their son, arguing that "that letter combination did not exist."

"Not even when you quote examples such as Iceland," Boukhalfa's tweet continued.

The parents said the discussion dragged on until they managed to find an official who spoke enough Dutch and who confirmed that the letter combination did, in fact, exist.

Reacting to the incident, Brussels councillor for Dutch-language culture and education Ans Persoons told the outlet she regretted what happened and said the parents should file a complaint.

A spokesperson for Brussels alderman for civil affairs, Ahmed El Ktibi, said that their cabinet received "very few complaints" of that nature since they hired personnel who had sufficient knowledge of "both languages."

"Our agents are sufficiently bilingual to respond to the public in both languages. During a job interview the have to show their knowledge in both languages," the spokesperson told Bruzz, adding that their command of the languages did not need to be "perfect" but sufficient to handle everyday administrative tasks.

The newborn's parents told Bruzz that while they would not file a complaint, they expected the incident would push both Brussels councillors to do more to ensure civil servants receive proper training in Dutch.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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