Whittingdale: English language won't lose relevance after Brexit
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He told the Brussels Times: “I think that this has presented an opportunity to discuss multilingualism in the country and that these discussions should include a modernisation of the law to consider English as one of the main languages in Brussels.”
To secure citizenship in Belgium, you must speak one of the country’s free official languages – French, Dutch and German.
The law also defines how administrative bodies between Belgium’s main regions communicate with one another.
But Mr Gatz said Brussels has now reached a “point of no return” as the latest studies show English is spoken by one-third of the city.
According to BRIO, which has traded the use of languages in Brussels for 20 years, the number of people with strong knowledge of English has overtaken those who are proficient in Dutch.
Mr Gatz insisted the research means the authorities can no longer ignore that the English language should be given a more central role in the city as well as in law.
“There are already many people who say that we should first learn each other’s languages before prioritising English,” the minister said.
“But in Brussels, there is already large support to make these changes. I do think that here, we can show the way and can say it is possible to work with these three languages.”
A similar has broken out in the European Union’s institutions, with arch federalists calling for English to be phased out as one of the bloc’s working languages because of Brexit.
Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron are both supportive of the move.
They would like to see French, one of the EU’s working languages, alongside English and German, more widely used by eurocrats.
French tourism and Francophonie minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said he could no longer accept English being the main language used in Brussels.
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He said: “There is a fight that remains, particularly in international institutions.
“I am thinking of the EU, for example, because we are still witnessing an emergence of English as a sort of Esperanto.
“We must defend multilingualism.
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“We should use French and other national languages within institutions because using only English means impoverishing discussions.
“Speaking with the same 300 words is not enough.
“Being able to express yourself in your own language, either French, German or Spanish, is very important.”
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