BelgiumLanguage

Speaking the language of unity in Brussels

Elio Di Rupo has called for a network of bilingual schools in and areas at the so-called ‘ frontiers'. The proposal makes both pedagogical and political sense.

Di Rupo believes that bilingual primary and secondary schools are important because: “If Flemings and Walloons want to remain one country, they have to understand each other.” And language is an important step towards promoting understanding.

Owing to the nature of the long and bitter language struggle in , schools in the country are taught primarily in the medium of one or the other of the country's three official languages. Other languages are taught as second or foreign languages. However, the bilingual ‘immersion' method requires both the two languages – here, Dutch and French – to be used as actual languages of instruction in order for pupils to develop a natural grasp of the languages.

Perhaps fearing a return to the old monolingual French system, many Flemish politicians reacted negatively to the proposal. The Open VLD liberal party found the idea “unthinkable”, according to one of its politicians.

Some politicians couched their opposition in pedagogical concerns. “In our view, multilingualism stems from a good command of Dutch,” opined Khatleen Helsen of the Christian democratic CD&V.

“Immerse linguistically weak children in multiple languages and you risk that they become zero-lingual,” according to Flemish Education Minster Frank Vandenbroucke of the socialist SP.A.

However, despite problems, bilingual education has scored major successes in countries like Switzerland and Canada. In addition, an experimental programme run by the Walloon community has produced positive results among the community which is traditionally the weakest at languages in Belgium.

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If Flanders does not take on this idea and lets Wallonia pursue it alone, it risks not only national unity among the coming generations, but also the competitive edge its multilingual population currently enjoys.

Author

  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and . Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the and the UN, as well as civil . Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in and the , and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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Khaled Diab

Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled’s life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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