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Belgian French
French of Belgium
français de Belgique (French)
Native toBelgium
Early forms
Latin (French alphabet)
French Braille
Official status
Official language in
 DR Congo
Regulated byAcadémie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguistic map of Belgium. Officially Francophone areas in red.

Belgian French (French: français de Belgique), also known as Walloon French (French: français Wallon), is the variety of French spoken mainly among the French Community of Belgium, alongside related Oïl languages of the region such as Walloon, Picard, Champenois, and Lorrain (Gaumais). The French language spoken in Belgium differs very little from that of France or Switzerland. It is characterized by the use of some terms that are considered archaic in France, as well as loanwords from languages such as Walloon, Picard, and Dutch.[1] The variety is also an official language in former Belgian colonies the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, with the latter two being co-official with English.

French is one of the three official languages of Belgium alongside Dutch and German. It is spoken natively by around 40% of the population, primarily in the southern region of Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region.


While a number of oïl languages have traditionally been spoken in different areas of Wallonia, French emerged as the regional language of literature in the 13th century. This was a result of heavy French cultural influence on the region over the past few centuries.[2] The diversity of local languages influenced French in Wallonia, with words from Walloon, Picard, Champenois and Lorrain making their way into the local variant. Until the 20th century, Walloon was the majority language of Wallonia, and most speakers were bilingual in French and Walloon.[3]

While the French spoken in Wallonia was influenced by local languages, the variant spoken in Brussels was influenced by Dutch, specifically the local Brabantian dialect. The city, geographically in the Flanders region, originally spoke only Dutch. However, a gradual Francisation began in the 19th century and intensified towards the end of the century and continued throughout the 20th century. Today, many Dutch expressions have been translated into French and are used in the language in the Brussels area.[citation needed]


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There are a few consistent phonological differences between the French in France and Belgium but usually no more than the differences between regional dialects within France (or the ones that exist between the English of Toronto and Vancouver (Canada) for instance), which might even be nonexistent. Regional accents however, can vary from city to city (the Liège accent being an example). However, on the whole, accents may vary more according to one's social class and education.

  Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i / y / u /
Close-mid e øː ə
Open-mid ɛ / ɛː œ ɔ
Open a /
Front Back
unrounded rounded
Mid õ
Open æ̃ œ̃ ɒ̃

While stronger accents have been more typical of the working class, they have become much less pronounced since World War I and the widespread use of television, which has helped to standardise accents and the types of words used by speakers. Belgian speakers are taught the pronunciation of standard Belgian French in schools. The following differences vary by speaker, according to level of education, age and native region:

Certain accents, such as in certain cities (notably Brussels and Liège) and those of speakers who are older and particularly less educated, are farther from the pronunciation of France. For example, in the dialect in and around Liège, especially for older speakers, the letter "h" is pronounced in certain positions. It is always silent, however, in Standard French. That dialect is known also for its slow, slightly "singing" intonation, a trait that is even stronger towards the east, in the Verviers area.


Words unique to Belgian French are called "Belgicisms" (French: belgicismes). (This term is also used to refer to Dutch words used in Belgium but not in the Netherlands.) In general, the Francophone and educated speakers understand the meaning and use of words in Standard French, and they may also use Standard French if they speak with non-Belgians who speak in Standard French, as their accent hints. Overall, the lexical differences between Standard French and Belgian French are minor. They could be compared to the differences that might exist between two speakers of American English living in different parts of the United States or those between a Canadian English speaker and a British English speaker.

Furthermore, the same speakers would often be well aware of the differences and might even be able to "standardise" their language or use each other's words to avoid confusion. Even so, there are too many forms to try to form any complete list in this article. However, some of the better-known usages include the following:

English Belgian, Swiss, and Canadian French Standard French
breakfast déjeuner/petit déjeuner petit déjeuner
lunch/dinner dîner déjeuner
dinner/supper souper dîner
late-evening meal/supper N/A souper


The grammar of Belgian French is usually the same as that of France, but Germanic influences can be seen in the following differences:

See also


  1. ^ Georges Lebouc, Dictionnaire de belgicismes, Lannoo Uitgeverij, 2006
  2. ^ Félix Rousseau, Wallonie, terre Romane, Ed. Jules Destrée, 1967, page 42.
  3. ^ Francard, pp.9-11.
  4. ^ von Wartburg, Walther (1983). Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Bonn, Basel.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)