Over 40% of the population of Belgium speaks French - more precisely, Belgian French - as their native language, while over two thirds of the entire Belgian population can converse in the French dialect. It is one official language of the state, along with Dutch. Major concentrations of Francophones in Belgium are settled in the locations like Wallonia and Brussels Capital Region.
History of French in Belgium
According to some historians, French has existed in Belgium for several centuries. It is said that though the region between the cities Liege and Tournai was populated by French speakers, it remained independent and unattached to France until Belgium came under French rule. Also, this region was first populated by Latin speakers, and with the influence of the neighboring North France region, French was introduced along with the considerable influence of the Walloon language. Over centuries, the French language gained control over this region. From the eighteenth century onward, Belgian French started getting refined, and became more neutral than the older Belgian French dialect. Some believe that the Belgian French dialect spoken in Belgium today is closer to Standard French than the French spoken in southern parts of France.
The Belgian French dialect has evolved as a language which has borrowed various features of several other languages. There is a considerable amount of lexical inclusion from the Dutch language that has been present in Belgium for centuries. Secondly the Walloon language that was initially used in the region has also influenced the Belgian French dialect. Apart from these, the Belgian French dialect also has traces of German language features.
The Belgian French dialect has distinct and prominent variations in pronunciation as compared to the Standard French dialect, but these variations are comparatively fewer than those compared between Standard French and the regional French dialects within France. Belgian French dialects do have variations in pronunciation and it could be classified according to the upper class, middle class and the lower class of French speaking people. The lower class speaks a specific strong accent while the upper and middle class have a neutral accent.
There are also variations in pronunciation of the words in Belgian French across different cities. For example, people in Brussels and Liege do pronounce the letter "h," while Standard French speakers consider it to be a silent letter. The Belgian French is spoken more in a tone which resembles a song a style not seen while speaking the Standard French dialect.
Belgian French Translations
Some translation companies like TTC will offer Belgian French translations, although most Belgians are quite comfortable with reading content in French for France.