Belgium in Brief: English still Europe's mother tongue

Belgium in Brief: English still Europe's mother tongue
Credit: Belga/Claude Truong-Ngoc

Whilst British politicians have made an effort to build walls between the UK and its continental neighbours, the language divide is at least not a problem, with English by far the most-spoken language in Europe and growing as younger generations become more adept.

In Brussels, you can get by with English alone, though having some grasp of French or Dutch will greatly enhance your experience of the city. In the institutions, English is the lingua franca, blending into a "Globish" form peppered with jargon and direct translations from home languages.

Certainly, the world's command of English has done nothing for multilingualism among native speakers – whilst those with other mother tongues expand their modes of communication, anglophone natives often remain stunted in this area, relying on the skills of others for their own comprehension.

But though speaking more languages is a universally enviable skill, having a de facto common tongue is not something to be seen as a threat to regional peculiarities but as the practical tool that it is. What some seek to portray as an insidious spread of homogeneity is really a boon for finding common ground.

This shouldn't be to the exclusion of studying other languages but rather to celebrate diversity rather look down on one tongue as "better" than another. In a way, the UK's exit from the EU allows English to serve as a neutral common language. And it might keep the island from drifting too far from its neighbours.

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