Belgium in Brief: Idioms to impress

Belgium in Brief: Idioms to impress
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As everyone in Belgium knows, a foreign language is far more than a set of words to get by in a different place. It weaves itself into the fabric of tradition and contains historical clues that explain customs that might first seem bizarre. It's one reason that Esperanto has failed to assert itself as the dominant mode of communication – the artificial language lacks the depth of variation that comes with constant and years-long use.

But besides the utility of knowing the local language away from home, there is an innate thrill in peculiarity, when a system otherwise formulaic and logical defies the normal bounds that unlock another mode of communication. Nothing does this more than an idiom – those turns of phrase that are rooted in specific areas or even "belong" to particular social or age groups.

The joy of an idiom is its nonsense – you might spend years reaching a practical level through the diligent study of conjugations, tenses, and modes. But all that goes out the window when time-old expressions are thrown into the mix of daily chit-chat. These linguistic anomalies can't be explained by normal language rules.

Yet dropping one into conversation can give the impression that you're a real master of a foreign language. It tells the native speaker that you've grasped the basics and have an appreciation for the quirks that make their mother tongue unique. There's a catch though: knowing when to apply one of these sayings requires an intimate sensitivity for context. They serve as a sort of litmus test for proficiency and the slightest imperfection flags you as a novice.

All the same, the error is rarely grave and the effort is almost always appreciated. In most cases, these expressions will raise a smile, perhaps provoke a little chuckle. If you can do that you're well on the way to endearing yourself to a foreigner. So see here for some of Belgium's strangest expressions, to be used at your discretion.

What's your favourite? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

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