Study Abroad Student Handbook
Belgium Belgium
Center for Global Education

Why Learn a Language?

There are three official languages in Belgium, and the country is divided geographically by language. The South is French speaking Wallonia, the North is Dutch speaking Flanders, and a small part of the West is German speaking. As a result, Belgium provides the perfect environment to truly work on becoming multi-lingual.

"C'est la vie." "The painting possesses a certain je ne sais quoi." Don't be so gauche." "He lives at the end of the cul-de-sac." Whether we realize it or not, French has worked its way into our everyday English language. The influence French has had on our language and culture is indisputable and learning the language can only make your understanding of English that much more complete. However, there are other reasons why it is a good idea to learn this highly influential Romance language. If you are interested in history, politics, music, architecture, science, agriculture, art or countless other subjects, you will find that speaking and understanding French gives you a deeper appreciation of your field and opens up innumerable opportunities for employment and research. French is the official language, along with English, of at least 10 major international organizations (among them the United Nations, UNESCO, NATO, and the International Red Cross) as well as being the language of choice in the European Union and the European Court of Justice. Furthermore, French is frequently listed as a language of choice in international job listings for professions ranging from politics to engineering, translation, marketing and investment. Knowledge of French will serve you well any type of international business, politics, humanitarian aid, or research, or even if you simply want to travel - it is the official language of 33 countries, and is the only language apart from English that is spoken on 5 continents.

Dutch is the official language of The Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Indonesia, and Netherlands Antilles, and is spoken by about 21 million people worldwide. The South African language of Afrikaans is closely related to Dutch. Historically, it derives from Germanic dialects of the Netherlands region. Although there are many dialects that can be considered Dutch, the dialect that is used in Belgium is Flemish. All dialects of Dutch are considered to be very close to the German language. At the same time, Dutch is considered to be one of the closest relatives of English. Flemish is considered to have a softer sound, and is older than some newer strains of the Dutch language. Overall, there are many different dialects that can be filed under Dutch- especially in Belgium, as there are many influences to be found. For example, it is not uncommon for a Dutch speaking Belgian to incorporate some French phrases into his/her vernacular.

Worldwide, approximately 120 million people speak German. In all of Europe, more people speak German than any other language. In fact, it is considered the language of business, diplomacy, and tourism in Eastern Europe and second only to English in Western Europe. For employment reasons, the advantages of being bilingual in English and German are obvious. German language skills afford study abroad students the right to access not only Germany's rich job market, but also the country's equally rich literary, philosophic, and scientific traditions. Also, one out of every ten books in the world is published in German. Imagine being able to read the works of greats like Einstein, Kant, and Nietzsche in their native language of German.

Read on – Why Study Abroad and find answers how study abroad can affect your personal growth and career path.

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