A multilingual city in a bilingual straight jacket
Although the freedom of language use was guaranteed by the Constitution, language has always been a contested issue in Belgium. The current political model is based on the pacification of the conflicts between the two main language communities. This model is the result of a quasi-continuous process of state reform built on a consociationalist conflict preventing design that starts from official language use as the core political cleavage. This resulted in a complex organization of the public and semi- public institutions. The pacification model is based on the political conditions before 1960. Since then the situation has radically changed. Brussels became a city of Immigration. Nowadays half the population has an immigrant background. Among youngsters, traditional monolingual families based on one of the official languages, only account for a third of the population. The changing composition of the population obviously has an impact on the linguistic practices. Within all different domains of language use, Brussels is characterized by a growing multilingualism. The question raises to what extend this situation affects the traditional structures of the pacification model that aims at regulating the contact situations between the two traditional languages.
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