French in Belgium, how different is it from the French spoken in France?
Written by Keator Cheng
On 21 May 2024

Belgian French, also known as Walloon French, is a window into the rich cultural and historical heritage of Belgium’s French-speaking regions.

Brussels, photo by Yannis Papanastasopoulos on Unsplash

Belgium, a country often celebrated for its rich history, diverse culture, and delectable cuisine, is also home to many French language speakers.

This distinctive variation of French spoken here is spoken primarily in the southern region of Wallonia and the capital city Brussels.

What Makes Belgian French Unique?

Photo by Elijah G on Unsplash

While it shares the same grammatical structure as standard French, there are several distinctive features that set it apart:

  1. Vocabulary differences:
    Numerical Terms: Belgian French uses ‘septante’ for 70 and ‘nonante’ for 90, unlike standard French, which uses ‘soixante-dix’ and ‘quatre-vingt-dix’.
  2. Meal Names: In Belgium, ‘dîner’ refers to lunch, and ‘souper’ is used for dinner, in contrast to standard French where ‘dîner’ means dinner.
    Regional Words: Certain words are unique to Belgian French, such as ‘dringuelle’ (a small tip or gift) and ‘sot-l’y-laisse’ (a part of poultry meat).
  3. Idiomatic Expressions: ‘Avoir bon’ (literally translating to ‘to have good’) – this means to feel good or to be comfortable. ‘Une fois’ – this expression is often used for emphasis, akin to ‘you know’ in English, particularly common in the Brussels region.
Manneken pis, photo by Frédéric Paulussen on Unsplash

Historic Cities

Liège, photo by Albert Dehon on Unsplash

Liège

Known as the ‘Cité Ardente’ (The Fiery City), Liège boasts a rich industrial history, stunning architecture, and lively festivals.

The Grand Curtius Museum offers a journey through art and archaeology.

Namur

The capital of Wallonia, Namur is renowned for its imposing citadel, scenic riverside views and vibrant cultural scene.

The annual Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film is a highlight.

Festivals and Celebrations

© Musée International du Carnaval et du Masque de Binche

Carnaval de Binche

Recognised by UNESCO, this traditional carnival features the iconic Gilles of Binche, who don elaborate costumes and masks, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

@Les Ardentes official website

Les Ardentes

A major music festival in Liège which attracts international artists and music lovers, reflecting the dynamic and modern cultural pulse of the region.

Iconic Dishes

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Carbonnade Flamande

A hearty beef stew slow-cooked in Belgian beer, offering rich flavours and tender meat. Often served with frites (fries), it is a quintessential Belgian comfort food.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Boulets Liégeois

Meatballs served in a savoury and slightly sweet sauce made with onions and sirop de Liège (a local pear and apple syrup), accompanied by crispy fries.

Delicious sweet treats

Gaufres de Liège

Liège waffles are a beloved street food, characterised by their dense, caramelised sugar-coated exterior and soft, chewy interior.

Speculoos

These spiced shortcrust biscuits, often enjoyed with coffee, are a traditional treat with a distinct flavour of cinnamon and cloves.

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

Beer Culture

Belgium’s beer culture is legendary with an impressive array of local brews to sample. In Wallonia, you can try the Trappist beers from Abbey of Chimay or Orval, each crafted by monks using centuries-old recipes.

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