"Dutch is an ugly language"

Barely a week after researchers at Leuven university came to the conclusion that over half of all Flemish pupils fail to meet minimum standards of French, yet more disturbing news has reached us and this time from South of the linguistic divide.  In 2010 half of all Francophone pupils took Dutch as a second language.  Today this has fallen to just over a third.

Laurence Mettewie of Namur University says that in Francophonia Dutch is not seen as an attractive language: "It's been like this for two decades: Francophone pupils think Dutch is an ugly language!  Even though many recognise it could be useful for their career their feelings get the better of them and they don't choose the option at school."

In Flanders French is obligatory.  This is not the case for Dutch in southern Belgium.

Francophone broadcaster Christophe Deborsu is ashamed of the figures: "I favour making Dutch compulsory at school, but I fear it's too late.  Pupils prefer to learn English and forget that Dutch is the premier language of Belgium."

Christophe Deborsu believes that the language border is more and more becoming a real frontier. He points to the fall in mixed marriages. In 1970 2% of marriages were mixed marriages.  Today the figure is 0.5%.

"Many people believe Belgium is going down the pan and will soon disappear.  What is the point in learning the other language?' people say."