French Flemish
Duinkerksch,[citation needed] Dunkerquois[citation needed]
Native toFrance
RegionNord-Pas-de-Calais: Dunkirk, Bourbourg, Calais, Saint-Omer and Bailleul
Native speakers
(20,000 full speakers or 50,000 with varying proficiency[1] – 60,000)[2] cited 1999)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottologfran1265  Frans-Westhoek Vlaams

French Flemish (French Flemish: Fransch vlaemsch, Standard Dutch: Frans-Vlaams, French: flamand français) is a West Flemish dialect spoken in the north of contemporary France.

Place names attest to Flemish having been spoken since the 8th century in the part of Flanders that was ceded to France at the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, and which hence became known as French Flanders. Its dialect subgroup, called French Flemish, meanwhile, became a minority dialect that survives mainly in Dunkirk (Duinkerke in Dutch, Duunkerke in West Flemish, "dune church"), Bourbourg (Broekburg in Dutch), Calais (Kales), Saint-Omer (Sint-Omaars), with its Flemish ethnic enclave of Haut-Pont (Haute-Ponte),[3] and Bailleul (Belle).

French Flemish has about 20,000 daily users, and twice that number of occasional speakers. The dialect's status appears to be moribund,[4] but there has been an active movement to retain French Flemish in the region.[1]


Though generally seen as a dialect of Dutch, some of its speakers prefer to call it a regional language. Jean-Paul Couché, chairman of the Akademie voor Nuuze Vlaemsche Taele (ANVT), argues:[1]

Linguistically, a dialect depends on a larger, national language. That does not apply to French Flemish. We are not connected to standard Dutch because it is an artificial language that was created based on the dialects of North Holland. Research shows that the distance between French Flemish and Dutch is greater than that between Dutch and German.[1]

Although French Flemish and West Flemish are together with Limburgish and Gronings the most distant dialects from Standard Dutch, Standard Dutch and Standard German are more distant still. However, that is not the case for Dutch and German dialects spoken at both sides of the Dutch-German border. This is partly due to the fact that those German dialects are not dialects of High German but of Low German.

Historic regression of Dutch in the Western periphery. The blue line indicates the situation in the 7th–8th century; the red line marks the situation during the 20th century; the black line is the current French-Belgian border.
Flemish (green) and French (red/brown) as spoken in the arrondissement of Dunkirk in 1874 and 1972


Bilingual sign at the entrance to the village of Renescure (between Saint-Omer and Hazebrouck)

A growing, re-introduced language, French Flemish is taught in several schools in the French Westhoek. The ANVT-ILRF was given permission to carry out experimental lessons in four public schools (in Esquelbecq, Noordpeene, Volckerinckhove, Wormhout) for the school years of 2007–08 until 2010–11, after which it would be evaluated. Afterwards, all requirements were met but it was only allowed to continue them, but not to expand to other schools or to the collège. On the other hand, the private Catholic education began teaching standard Dutch in collèges in Gravelines and Hondschoote.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Lambrechts, Toon (10 September 2014). "French Flemish: group defends a dying language". Flanders Today. Archived from the original on 9 December 2015.
  2. ^ Bientôt une charte pour sauver le ch’ti et les 74 autres langues régionales ?, in La Voix du Nord.
  3. ^ "The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge". Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. 1846.
  4. ^ "Flemish in France". UOC, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia), subsite Euromosaic – Research Centre of Multilingualism. Retrieved 14 January 2007.
  5. ^ "Le flamand fait son entrée dans deux collèges du Dunkerquois" (in French). 1 September 2011.