As a bilingual Belgian I never speak (or write) French in the Flemish part of Belgium, even if my interlocutor understands French, and I never speak Flemish in Wallonia. In Brussels I have the choice but will mainly speak French. By doing so I have the best chance for good business or private relations.
For tourists in Brugge and more generally Flanders I would advise the following:
Start with saying "Goeden dag" (good day) in Dutch or "Goeien dag" (is more Flemish) and then ask "Spreekt u Engels (English), Frans (French), Duits (German)?" There is a good chance that you will get an answer in one of these languages and you will avoid upsetting some Flemish nationalist what happened to VT member Lucretia.
If the person does not want to answer go somewhere else; there are enough shops, cafés and restaurants in Brugge where they will be pleased to speak an international language and where "de klant is koning" = the customer is king!
N.B. I don't know who put here the misleading title "2 languages are spoken Flemish and French" because there is only one official language in the Flemish part of Belgium and that is Nederlands. The other languages that are used depend on the goodwill of the inhabitants who are indeed often plurilingual.
Brugge is not pronounced Broo-gah in Flemish and not Broozh in French; but I might be wrong!
Even if scholars and intellectuals use the term "Algemeen Nederlands(*)" or "Standaard Nederlands" and try to impose this official language to the 16 Mio Netherlanders and the 6 Mio Flemish Belgians, the only place where you might hear Algemeen Nederlands is at the news bulletin by the speakers of the official televisions or radios.
In the street dialects are predominant. Furthermore the intonation between Dutch and Flemish is very different even when people speak a correct Algemeen Nederlands.
Best is to compare with English from the UK and English from the USA.
(*) Years ago it was called Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands ABN.
Actually it's both depending on whether you are using the Flemish spelling or French spelling. In Flemish and Dutch, it's spelled Brugge and pronounced Broo-gah. In French and English, it's spelled Bruges and pronounced Broozh.
Belgium is divided into two parts, Flanders which is the northern part of the country and Wallonia which is the southern part of the country. Since Brugge is located in Flanders the Flemish/Dutch spelling is the one that I'm guessing is used more frequently.
Since this is a touristy place, almost everybody speaks English here, though French, Flemish and Dutch are more widely spoken.
Talking about the Dutch language, it is quite a misnomer to assume that Bruges ( say broo-gah ) is derived from “brug,” the Dutch word for bridge. Yup, folks just assume that since there are so many bridges over here! However, it comes from the Norse “bryggja,” meaning landing stage, because the city was a commercial port of call for Vikings trading along the North Sea coast. Ho, yessiree, the place was swamped with Asterix characters at one point of time, buying chocolates and cloth...
People speak all kinds of languages here and it's amazing how fluent they are in French, English, German and Dutch of course. It's also amazing how quick they react to whatever language you speak. But they all smile and like it when you say little things like 'Thank you' in Dutch :-)
here's the story: belgium is a bilingual country (french and flemish) and I speak French, quite fluently, too. In Brugge they speak Flemish, and I don't know a single word of it - so my obvious language choice was French. Right now I'm not sure that this was a good choice, but it proved a fun one: I entered a shop to buy something - and asked in French what i was looking for - the shopkeeper, who obviously understood me, showed me two items (k, she understood me) but... spoke english to me (k, I understood her). I asked the usual questions in French (the difference, the price and so on) - once again - showing she understood, answered the question i asked her correctly, but still in english. Now you should know that I don't have an english accent - if anything an italian accent - so the moral of the story is: stick to english rather than french - people seem to prefer this language
Here people speaks flammish (Dutch) but they usually speaks French (thanks!) and in the touristic areas, English.
Photo: O.L.V-kerk-Nôtre Dame-Church of our Lady
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SPEAK FRENCH TO BELGIANS! I MADE THE MISTAKE OF ASSUMING THAT THEY USED THE FRENCH LANGUAGE MOST OFTEN WITH TOURISTS BUT I WAS SO WRONG! THEY HATE THE FRENCH AND WERE VERY UPSET WHEN I APPROACHED THEM WITH A 'BONJOUR.' JUST STICK WITH ENGLISH!!!
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