4.2.5 Language issues and policies
Language is one of the fundamental bases structuring Belgian society. In addition to the 3 official linguistic communities, there is a plurality of languages in use throughout the country by the many immigrant communities. As the capital of Europe, Brussels is a multilingual city.
The Dutch Language Union was founded in 1980 as an inter-governmental organisation representing the Netherlands and the Flemish Community. In 2004, Surinam became an associate member of the Union. Its mandate is to jointly promote the Dutch language and literature in the Dutch-speaking area and abroad. Standardisation of the Dutch language (spelling, grammar, terminology, and the new speech-processing technologies) is one area under the responsibility of the Union. Several projects have been set up to promote knowledge of the Dutch language among "new citizens" to the area . One prestigious project is a new seven-volume literary history of Flemish and Dutch literature since the Middle Ages (since 2006, 5 volumes have appeared).
A specific department has a goal of defending and diffusing the French language. This department develops three main types of action:
There are several other mother-tongue languages in use throughout Wallonia other than French. An endogenous language department brings support at the literary, linguistic and education levels.
There is significant cooperation on language issues with linguistic organisations in France, Quebec and French-speaking community in Switzerland.
The French Community is a member of the French-Speaking Agency and actively participates in its activities, especially on projects related to cultural diversity with other French-speaking countries.
Protection of and giving prominence to the German language in public life is a field for which the German-speaking Community could yet expand its services in future.
Use of languages in teaching is extensively determined by the statutory language status of the boroughs of the German-language area, which all have language facilities for the French-speaking population. In this regard, the Decree of 19 April 2004 on the Instrumentality and Use of Languages in Teaching makes it possible under certain conditions to set up primary schools in which French or Dutch is the teaching language and then German the first foreign language and to allow secondary schools to allocate subject teaching up to 50% or 65% in French.
The Belgian Radio and Television Centre of the German-speaking Community (BRF), instituted by Act of 18 July 1979, has a remit to offer public radio and television broadcasting services in German and currently has two radio stations and one television channel. Legal entities that broadcast radio or television programmes are obliged to ensure protection of and prominence to the German language in their broadcasts by moderating a certain proportion (75%) of their broadcasts in German.
A further initiative for ensuring prominence to the German language is the prizes awarded by the Council of the German-speaking Community:
The linguistic exchange between the German-speaking Community and the other two Communities is regulated by the agreements on co-operation. This exchange concerns both the area of culture and media and youth policy and teaching.