“All Brussels 18-year-olds should speak Dutch, French and English”

The Brussels Regional Government is setting a new ambitious goal: all pupils who pass through the Brussels education system should be fluent in Dutch, French and English by the time they are 18.

Brussels minister Sven Gatz (Flemish liberal), who is charged with multilingualism in the region, says that this is a way of putting Brussels on the map as a multilingual region.

Over a hundred different languages are spoken across the Brussels Region by its 1.2 million inhabitants of over 180 different nationalities.

Sven Gatz: “Brussels has made multilingualism a policy priority in order to allow Brussels to function better as a cosmopolitan city, in order to stimulate social cohesion among inhabitants and to reinforce their skills on the labour market.”

More and more Brusselers support multilingualism, forms of multilingual education and believe that language skills are essential to find a job.  Figures show that 90% of Brusselers support bilingual primary education.

Sven Gatz: “The advantages of multilingualism are legion.  Multilingualism is an advantage on the labour market and enhances cohesion among Brusselers.  In our hyper diverse and multilingual city and beyond speaking several languages is also important for a shared citizenship in which everybody can make themselves understood and can understand the other.  Multilingualism is part of the Brussels identity and will become more so in the future.”

But what does Minister Gatz mean by multilingualism in the Brussels context?

“People who are regularly in contact with several languages and can manage a simple conversation in these languages are judged to be multilingual.  The two official Brussels languages, Dutch and French, are the point of departure.  English is added as an economic and cultural world language.”

The Brussels government also recognises the importance of the numerous languages spoken in the home across the Brussels Region.   In the Council for Multilingualism academics, experts and various other partners will develop a plan that also takes existing initiatives into account. Mr Gatz will be liaising with the Flemish and Francophone education ministers and will promote language exchanges involving teachers from the Flemish and Francophone communities.

Supporting the language needs of business is a priority too, while jobseekers will soon be able to register for more language courses.