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Flemish or Belgian Dutch is the Dutch language as spoken in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. It is the standard in schools, government and the media and used informally in daily speech, "tussentaal". There are four principal Dutch dialects in Flanders: Brabantian (including Antwerpish), East Flemish, West Flemish, and Limburgish. The latter two are sometimes considered separate languages.
It is estimated that around 5.5 million people, about 55% of the population, in Belgium and a few thousand people in France speaks Flemish. Flemish is closely related to Dutch and was even recognised as Belgian Variant of Dutch. Flemish is actually not an official language, it is a dialect or a variety of dialects. Most Flemish are not pleased that Flemish is referred to as a dialect.
Flemish also are not partial to the fact that their language is called Dutch. They see Dutch as a language that is not very expressive. On the other hand, many Dutch people believe that the Flemish language is overly colourful and is a bit of a funny little language. Oh, the healthy rivalries between countries!
Dutch and Flemish language speak many variations of the language. For example, the language in Brussels is different from what one may hear in New York. Cockney and Geordie have different sounds as well. Most people in the Netherlands pronounce [g] in a very hard way, while the Flemish will pronounce the [g] in a much softer and subdued tone. However, the [g] and the [h] sounds vary depending on region. This is also true of the pronunciation of the letter [r]. For example, in Netherlands, the sound of this letter is more closely aligned with how English would say [r], in Flanders, the sound can be thought of as more of a rolling [r].
Linguistically, Flemish is sometimes used as a term for the language of the former County of Flanders, especially West Flemish. However, as a result of political emancipation of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, the combined culture of that region, consisting of West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp, Limburg and Brussels has come to be known as 'Flemish'. Despite the name, Brabantian and in particular its Antwerp dialect is the dominant contributor to the Belgian tussentaal. The only official language in Flanders is Dutch.
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