Belgium in Brief: TV drama fuels the sub/dub debate

Belgium in Brief: TV drama fuels the sub/dub debate
Credit: Belga/RTBF

Belgium's language divide is the subject of intrigue, irritation, and sometimes plain incomprehension. It's not even as if French and Dutch have strong linguistic similarities, chalk and cheese comes to mind...

Though countless government policies have made efforts to close the gap between communities – rightfully recognising the communication barrier as one of the first obstacles to take on – success has been limited by an unspoken reticence of many Walloon pupils to commit to Dutch classes.

It's an issue that will take years to treat and depends on a culture of duolinguism – something that politicians are attempting to show but will need a will that extends beyond administrative spheres. Culturally, the bridge between languages is less common, especially when it comes to television.

Belgium has Dutch and French media that are generally kept separate. In fact, it is only now that the first country's public broadcasters are collaborating for the first time. To boost the Belgian appeal, the TV drama concerns one of the country's most gripping chapters in its criminal history.

Yet the cold case of the Brabant Killers is now firing fresh debate about how the show (with scenes in Dutch and French) is broadcast. Whilst it might have served as an opportunity for residents of Wallonia and Flanders to follow some of the other tongue, the French-language broadcaster RTBF has come under fire for its decision to dub the Dutch sections in French.

Not only is this a missed language opportunity, critics argue that it will only entrench a divide that extends to almost every aspect of Belgian society. Better, they say, would be to keep the original audio and provide bilingual subtitles – as in many cinemas. Belgium's multi-lingual uniqueness should be promoted with pride rather than downplayed and the country's broadcasters are key actors in the saga.

Have you been following the show? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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