Home Language Learning Every thing You Have to Know About Belgian French (Phrasebook Included!)

Every thing You Have to Know About Belgian French (Phrasebook Included!)

Every thing You Have to Know About Belgian French (Phrasebook Included!)


Think about a land with centuries-old abbeys and cobblestone streets, serene nation landscapes, proud chocolatiers, Liège waffles, charming boutiques, handy transportation, pleasant locals, and linguistic and cultural variety. A land that gave the world the artist Magritte, the Smurfs, and possibly French fries. Immediately its capital hosts quite a few establishments vital to the European Union. La Belgique (Belgium) supplies all the above, and there’s a lot extra to discover! 

There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch (Flemish), French, and German, although many different unofficial languages and dialects are spoken by its residents. Roughly 40 p.c of Belgians converse French fluently as their first language, however the majority of Belgians are nonetheless comfy utilizing primary French. 

As a learner of French, you may be eager to e-book a ticket to Belgium instantly, and we couldn’t agree extra! However will your Commonplace French expertise translate to Belgian French? Would possibly there be some confusion between the dialects? Sure to each!  All the higher, we are saying. One of the crucial fascinating issues about studying a language is that you just’ll by no means be bored. 

Beneath, we’ll check out the historical past of French in Belgium and dive into how the dialect has departed from the Commonplace French model. Plus, we’ve got an entire record of phrases you may lean on to sound like a neighborhood. 

It doesn’t matter what dialect or area you’re exploring, there’s extra to a language than memorizing vocabulary and verb charts. Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion can convey linguistic selection proper to your fingertips, mirroring the best way you first acquired language as a toddler. And for those who rejoice the success and confidence of mastering French by reserving a visit and soaking within the belgicismes (phrases explicit to Belgian French), we don’t blame you!

>>You’ll wish to know 100+ primary French phrases for any state of affairs earlier than you pack your luggage!

Why is French spoken in Belgium? 

We all know that language teams don’t match neatly inside the borders outlined by one’s passport, so there isn’t any one language known as “Belgian.” As a substitute, there are three dominant languages spoken by the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants. It’s fascinating to notice a number of the historic occasions, beliefs, and actions that led to French being the second-most-spoken language in Belgium. 

For those who’re within the Région Flamande (Flemish/Flanders Area), the northern a part of the nation, you’d truly be extra more likely to hear the Belgian dialect of Dutch. This will not be shocking, given the geographic proximity to the Netherlands. The Région Wallonne (Wallonia), or southern area, borders France. 

Courting again to the Roman Empire, a number of wars had been fought on the soil that’s now Belgium. At completely different factors, elements of the land belonged to the XVII Provinces, the Austrian Empire, and Napoleon’s Empire. With so many adjustments in energy additionally got here affect from different cultures and languages.  

By the thirteenth century, the French language was already fairly highly effective within the framework of literature, tradition, and the humanities. The elite and politically highly effective prized their data of French, and plenty of communities quickly felt pressured to undertake it. 

By the point Belgium received their independence in 1831, French was utilized in lecture rooms throughout the nation, and lawmakers insisted that or not it’s the only real official language. Consequently, Dutch audio system and French audio system fought one another for standing, divided not solely by language however by financial and social class distinctions. Legal guidelines across the rights and use of languages had been enacted to answer the battle, however the Belgian Structure has had language-related adjustments at the same time as not too long ago as 1970! 

So how does this historical historical past have an effect on you, a budding French speaker? 

It’s value noting that sure areas and communities of Belgium are solely required to make bulletins and supply signage within the native dominant language, which differs from area to area. If you end up trotting throughout Belgium, you’ll wish to know the names of locations in each French and Dutch. 

It could even be good manners to make use of the suitable greetings relying on the area. Don’t fear—we’ve included these within the phrases and phrases part under. Un peu compliqué (just a little difficult), maybe, however language learners may even see it as two languages for the value of 1! 

How many individuals converse French in Belgium?

There are extra Dutch audio system than French audio system, however within the south, 89 p.c of individuals will converse French as both their first or second language. In all the Kingdom of Belgium (its official title), current estimates point out that over 4.5 million individuals, or round 40 p.c of the full inhabitants, are members of the French Group. This quantity is more likely to be better, as many individuals be taught further languages after they reside, work, and do enterprise in shut proximity!  

For those who’re touring to Belgium as a vacationer, you’ll don’t have any hassle discovering somebody that can assist you along with your French (and even help you in English). Join with only one or two sympathetic locals who’re used to learners, and also you’ve discovered an actual treasure. 

What does a Belgian French accent sound like? 

Has anybody ever informed you that they love your accent? Most individuals don’t assume they’ve one, however it may even be potential to determine the area the place you grew up primarily based on a number of traits of your speech and pronunciation. Consider the number of English audio system from Eire, Scotland, Australia, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, Boston, New York, Ottawa, London, and Liverpool. Certainly you may hear no less than a number of variations in the best way English sounds, and this variety of accents is comparable for the French language.  

It’s vital to notice that there isn’t any one explicit Belgian French accent. Similar to in English, there are regional variations even between areas which might be solely separated by a pair hours’ drive. For somebody who has grown up in Belgium, the accents may be apparent between cities, whereas for a learner, there could also be little distinction between audio system from France and Belgium. For those who’re a cautious listener, there may very well be a number of hints that set completely different audio system aside:

  • Some vowels may be pronounced with extra readability in Belgian French.  
  • Phrases reminiscent of nuit (evening) may function extra of an o sound.  
  • Belgian French audio system pronounce the w in wagon equally to English as an alternative of a v like voiture (automobile).   
  • Some individuals say that French in Belgium sounds much more “nasal” than Metropolitan French. 
  • Relying on the area, Belgian French audio system might use a stronger guttural r sound from the again of the throat, a rolled r nearly just like the Spanish “erre,” or an American rhotic r. 
  • The intonation of the sentence as an entire might comply with a distinct rhythm. 

Everybody has an “accent” within the language that they converse. It may be actually enjoyable to check and distinction how new buddies and acquaintances from different areas pronounce phrases, and such conversations can result in real amusement. Comedy sketches and caricatures can typically exaggerate these delicate variations for comedian impact (however can cross the road into tiresome and dangerous stereotyping!) From our stance, French is probably the most enjoyable once we embrace the variations and distinctive dialectical qualities of the huge Francophone world.  

Is it tough to be taught Belgian French?  

Studying any language takes time, numerous apply, and endurance. In case you are a newbie or intermediate French learner, you’ll have to discover a sympathetic interlocutor who: 

  • Has the endurance to decipher the true that means/intent of your phrases
  • Can talk clearly utilizing French that’s simpler so that you can perceive

No matter dialect of French they converse, they might have to decelerate, enunciate properly, and typically shift their vocabulary to a extra universally understood phrase.  

If an individual is unfamiliar with learners, their regional vocabulary and slang might current a problem. You possibly can all the time ask for clarification, examples, or additional explanations whenever you don’t perceive, or make word of language variations to lookup later. The identical conversations are frequent even amongst native audio system!

Different good concepts can be to look at movies on-line and on social media. Use subtitles and playback instruments to rewatch, decelerate, and reap the benefits of hashtags and creators that point out or use a Belgian dialect. With sufficient publicity, you’ll begin to perceive French in Belgium as fluently because the French you may have studied.

Even when it looks as if you’ll by no means be completed studying, the excellent news is that context all the time helps; if in case you have considerably of a background in French, you’ll have sufficient context to determine your method via. Studying Belgian French is not any tougher than studying Commonplace French! 

What are the variations between Belgian French and Commonplace French? 

Dutch affect (and do they actually say “une fois?”

It’s absolutely simpler to be taught a language when you may have extra alternative to attach with it.  As a result of many Dutch audio system have discovered French and vice versa, there was fairly a little bit of affect between the 2 languages, not simply by way of borrowed vocabulary, but additionally the impact of translating frequent buildings word-for-word.  

One well-known instance of that is the phrase une fois. It is a filler phrase generally heard mid-sentence or on the finish of a thought. It interprets to the English, “as soon as” or “one time,” however doesn’t essentially carry the identical that means. It comes from a direct translation of the Dutch een keer (as soon as) and is usually a verbal tic like “you realize,” “so,” or “proper?” French audio system from different areas may use completely different filler phrases like bon, ben, euh, quoi, alors, or dis in a lot the identical method. These phrases don’t essentially carry their literal that means, however are used to fill a pause or emphasize confusion or shock.  

Although many audio system of Commonplace French will emphasize the “une fois” as a caricature of French in Belgium, it tends for use most by audio system whose first language is Dutch, and never all the time a attribute of individuals whose first language is French. It’s not that it’s by no means used, however it’s just like the stereotypes that Canadians say “eh?” and the British say “innit?” In different phrases, you’ll most likely hear it, however don’t overdo it! 

The usage of savoir 

A Belgian French speaker might ask you, “Tu sais ouvrir la fenêtre?” and also you’ll assume… “certain, in fact I understand how to open the window.” However what they’re actually asking is, “Are you able to open the window?”

You’ll have to know the French verb savoir (to know, to understand how) in any dialect, particularly the je kind to be able to use je ne sais pas  (I don’t know). In Belgium, this verb also can imply the identical factor as pouvoir (can, to have the ability to), particularly in spoken French. 

Linguists imagine that this utilization was normal in older French, and has disappeared from the French spoken in France in the present day, however has lived on within the Belgian dialect.  

Belgian French Commonplace French English 
Saurais-tu mettre la desk?  Pourrais-tu mettre la desk? May you set the desk? 
Tu sais me passer la fourchette?  Tu peux me passer la fourchette?  Are you able to go me the fork? 
Je ne saurai pas venir demain matin.  Je ne pourrai pas venir demain matin.  I received’t be capable of come tomorrow.  
La fenêtre ne savait plus s’ouvrir.  La fenêtre ne s’ouvrait plus. / ne pouvait pas s’ouvrir.  The window couldn’t open anymore.  

Commonplace French additionally makes use of savoir to imply “to know easy methods to do one thing,” which does have an analogous that means to “to have the ability to.”

Je ne sais pas nager.  = I don’t know easy methods to swim. = I can’t swim.  

Elle ne sait pas cuisiner! = She doesn’t know easy methods to cook dinner. = She will’t cook dinner.  

Keep away from confusion and use the context to understand which method savoir is getting used.  


For those who state a quantity within the seventies, eighties, or nineties in Commonplace French, it comes with a worth: you’ll have to do a little bit of psychological math. 

This puzzling function of French numbers is very irritating to newbie learners! Right here’s what it seems to be like each time it’s good to state a quantity when discussing costs, cellphone numbers, addresses, dates, and extra: 

soixante-quinze (60+15) = seventy-five (75) 

quatre-vingt-dix-sept (4×20+10+7) = ninety-seven (97)

If solely there have been a much less intricate method! Fortunately, Belgian French makes some numbers simpler. Whilst you’ll nonetheless have to depend on quatre-vingts (80), septante (70) and nonante (90) are easier alternate options. You could hear some audio system use huitante (80) and octante (80), however the former is primarily utilized in Switzerland and the latter is sort of antiquated. 

Belgian French Commonplace French Quantity
septante soixante-dix 70
septante et un soixante-onze 71
septante-trois soixante-treize 73
quatre-vingts quatre-vingts 80
nonante quatre-vingt-dix 90
nonante et un quatre-vingt onze 91
nonante-deux quatre-vingt-douze 92

Names of meals 

There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However there’s additionally brunch, supper, tea, and second breakfast.  Do you utilize the phrases “dinner” and “supper” interchangeably? Does “tea” check with a brewed beverage, or a snack within the afternoon? 

It ought to come as no shock that the names of meals in French would additionally embody some variation. This not solely arises from cultural norms for when meals are taken, however can be considerably affected by the language used from era to era.  

Belgium France That means
Le déjeuner Le petit-déjeuner the primary meal within the morning, breakfast 
Le dîner Le déjeuner mid-day mealLunch, luncheon, dinner (relying on English-speaking area) 
Le souper Le dîner night mealDinner, supper (relying on English-speaking area) 
Un dix-heures un encas
le goûterla collationle quatre-heures
A light-weight snack between meals, particularly between breakfast and lunch in Belgium since faculties would enable for a recess and snack time at round ten o’clock. 
Le goûter or le quatre-heures is usually within the afternoon between lunch and dinner. 
La collation is a lightweight meal or refreshment. 

Female Phrases for Professions

The Belgian authorities has printed tips for selling linguistic equality for girls through the use of extra inclusive or feminized types of titles and professions. Prior to now, girls had no alternative however to make use of masculine phrases for professions and positions that traditionally had solely been held by males, reminiscent of “Madame le professeur” (Madam trainer), however that is changing into a factor of the previous, as feminized kinds reminiscent of la professeure (the trainer) are inspired. 

The 2015 tips encourage using Madame as an alternative of Mademoiselle for any grownup lady, no matter her marital standing.  

This societal shift and linguistic change is just not distinctive to Belgium; nonetheless, the utilization or feminization of phrases may differ from what you’ve discovered from older assets or from what has been adopted for frequent use in different areas. 

What phrases or phrases ought to I do know if I’m touring to Belgium?

Excellent news! Your French will serve you properly in Belgium, since Belgian French audio system are uncovered to loads of Commonplace French on French tv and radio. That mentioned, there aren’t as many alternatives for publicity to Belgian French. You’ll want to hunt these out—via podcasts, movies, or conversations with French audio system native to Belgium. 

To get you began, we’ve put collectively a listing of phrases and phrases distinctive to Belgian French. And for those who’re touring, be sure you hold your ears open for brand new methods to precise your self! 


Belgian French Metropolitan French / English That means 
A tantôt! A bientôt!See you quickly!  See you shortly!
Il fait douf! It’s extraordinarily sizzling out! 
Il fait caillant! It’s extraordinarily chilly out!  
Il drache! Il tombe des cordes!It’s raining very exhausting! 
Je te dis quoi. I’ll let you realize.  
Dis-moi quoi.  Let me know. 
Faire une baise donner un baiser / faire une bise/bisouTo offer a kissBe cautious with this one as a result of when used as a verb, it’s very vulgar! 
Un GSM / Un “G” un téléphone moveablea mobile phone/cell phone 
Je te sonne.  Je t’appelle.I’ll name you.   
Je vais à la toilette.  Je vais aux toilettes. I’m going to the lavatory. 
Il faut faire la file.  Il faut faire la queue. You will need to line up / queue / stand in line. 
être bleu de quelqu’un être amoureux/amoureuse To be in love/smitten
un cokotteur / une cokotteuse un/une colocataireA roommate/housemate (one who shares a house) 

Widespread Objects and Locations

Do not forget that selection and richness of the French language we talked about? Understand that many of those phrases may very well be commonplace in numerous Francophone areas, whereas not used in any respect in different elements of Belgium. 

Belgian French Metropolitan French/ English That means
une farde un classeura binder / a folder 
le papier collant le scotchadhesive tape
une latte une règlea ruler
un bic un styloa pen
un journal de classe un cahiera pocket book 
une chemise une feuille de papiera sheet of paper
un marqueur fluo un surligneur / un feutrea highlighter
une mallette un sac à dosa backpack/ a rucksack
un kot un logement d’étudiantpupil housing/house
un essuie une napkina shower towel
un essuie (de vaisselle) un torchon a dishcloth
un torchon une serpillièrea flooring fabric or mop
un plumier une troussea pencil case
le clinche la poignée (de porte)the doorknob
une tirette une fermeture éclaira zipper

Meals and Beverage

Belgian French Metropolitan French/ English That means
un pistolet un petit ache (rond) a small bread bun
du sucre impalpable du sucre glacepowdered sugar / confectioners sugar
un chique un bonbon / un chewing-guma sweet or piece of gum
des chicons  des endivesendives  
des patates des pommes de terres / des fritespotatoes or fries
une couque une briochea candy roll
le lait russe un café au laitespresso with milk/latte

Discover French in each area with Rosetta Stone

Whether or not you’re planning a visit or simply connecting with Belgian tradition on-line, studying new belgicismes (Belgian French phrases) will enrich your language studying expertise. Primary consciousness of regional language variations helps us keep curious and ask inquiries to keep away from an excessive amount of confusion.  

Have already got a visit to Belgium on the calendar? Rosetta Stone may help you navigate frequent journey conditions with ease. Our Phrasebook teaches you helpful phrases associated to eating out, getting round, well being and security, and extra. Hear a local speaker pronounce every expression and apply saying them your self, so that you’ll be ready for any real-world encounter.

Since most of us can’t journey as a lot as we’d like, convey different French regionalisms straight to you! Brush up on the distinction between savoir and pouvoir whereas consuming un pistolet or un petit ache! At Rosetta Stone, we’d fairly provide the instruments to make recollections than give attention to memorization alone, so our platform focuses on vocabulary and buildings in partaking contexts. Uncover the world whereas studying French naturally proper from residence!

Written by Jamie Edwards

Jamie is a learner and trainer of Spanish and French. When she’s not studying new phrases, you’ll discover her on the soccer sidelines, ski slopes, and observe and discipline bleachers having fun with the 4 seasons of Western New York.



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