The Princess explained that language was very important for her and that she hoped to pass on this love to her children.
VRT New anchor Martine Tanghe says she was surprised when Princess Mathilde immediately agreed to the interview for the Dutch magazine 'Onze Taal' (Our language). It is very rare for members of the Belgian Royal Family to give interviews, but the Princess was very enthusiastic about the subject and immediately agreed. The Princess attaches great importance to language and she was keen for a good chat on this subject.
The Princess, who married Crown Prince Filip in 1999, was educated in French. It was only when she was twelve years old that she started to learn Dutch, the language spoken by a majority of the people of Belgium. Since then she has put a lot of time and energy into learning the language. It did not come easy: "I had a job with the syntax, the pronunciation and the intonation" she told Martine. The Princess realises that she still has a French accent in her Dutch: "Probably I'll never be able to get rid of it."
Since her marriage to the heir to the Belgian throne, Princess Mathilde has tackled Dutch grammar and vocabulary very systematically: "I use Dutch in real life, when I meet people. This way I make a lot more headway than by learning all the theory in a course."
The Princess reads the Flemish press every day. She speaks Dutch with her advisor, her staff and the people in her surroundings. She watches Flemish TV and listens to Flemish radio on a daily basis. It all helps to perfect her Dutch.
"The children think in Dutch"
Princess Mathilde says that she attaches great importance to speaking several languages: "It is a trump card for the future and provides an opening to many cultural riches. Being able to speak several languages also helps people to put things in perspective. The Princess believes it's crucial that people speak the language of the country in which they live too: "It's very important that people feel at home in their surroundings. This goes for newcomers, but also for the underprivileged." "Otherwise they will be cast out from society" says the Princess.
Language occupies the Princess a lot and she also tries to pass on this interest to her children: "Usually I speak French with the children" she concedes, but the princes and princesses go to a Dutch-language school. "I help the children with their homework and that is all in Dutch. The children simply think in Dutch."
Princes Mathilde sometimes notices that her children speak several languages at the same time. This is something she tries to discourage. She wants them to speak a language properly.
The Princess also loves to read. I read a lot in several different languages: "Literary books I save for during the holidays or on long flights." The Princess is also familiar with the works of many Flemish writers.
Her Royal Highness is not the only bookworm in the family. Her husband, Crown Prince Filip, too is a fervent book reader: "The Prince is often found with a book in his hands. He reads twice as much as I do.
"She's a shining example to us all"
The interview with the Princess and her command of the Dutch language greatly impressed Martine Tanghe. The Princess has come a long way: "Many Francophones should take her as an example. She takes great care when she speaks Dutch and it's certainly all correct! Many Flemings too could learn from the Princess as she sticks with proper Dutch at all times."
Martine Tanghe was also impressed by the number of Dutch literary works that the Princess reads and her determination to pass on her love for the language: "She often speaks Dutch with the children too. I think a lot of people have the wrong picture of the Princess, because she reads both very clearly and very well."
Martine Tangle’s interview with Crown Princess Mathilde appears in the January issue of the magazine 'Onze Taal'.