Language censuses

Between 1846 and 1947, language censuses were held in Brussels and the surrounding municipalities, every 10 years. These censuses weren’t purely scientific, but had political consequences. The language law of 1932 stated that whenever a municipality around Brussels had more than 30% of French speakers (according to the census), this municipality had to become bilingual in its external contacts. If more than 50% used French most often, French also had to be introduced in internal communication. In 1935, three municipalities were added to Brussels, resulting in the current group of 19, each with their own council.

The language censuses met with a lot of protest from the Flemish, because they seemed to enforce >Frenchification. There was some uncertainty about the reliability of the results. For example, bilinguals were often counted as French speaking, inclusive of Dutch speakers who spoke very little French. Moreover, the political climate was not very favourable for Dutch speakers, particularly after the second World War, and many Flemings pretended to be French speakers as a result. So even though the figures are not very exact, they do give a clear indication about the language situation in Brussels.

In >1963, the language border and the facility municipalities were anchored in the constitution, so bilingual Brussels was no longer able to expand after that.

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