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Schaerbeek town hall officially allows English - and other languages
The Brussels municipality of Schaerbeek has taken an important step towards embracing multilingualism - by allowing residents to deal with the local administration in languages other than French or Dutch.
From this Tuesday (4 January), the town hall will officially offer assistance to residents in English upon request, Schaerbeek's alderman for civil status and population, Quentin van den Hove, announced.
Other languages can also be used - and for this, the municipality will provide an interpreter into English at a nominal cost of €20. Official documents and correspondence will remain in French and Dutch.
"Schaerbeek is welcoming more and more citizens of other nationalities," said van den Hove. "Allowing the use of English is a given. Being able to use English will help many people."
He said that, in reality, town hall officials already give assistance in English "on the sly", without it being an officially recognised language.
"We are making this reality official," he added. "Administrative procedures are often long and complicated. It is therefore important that everyone understands what is expected of them. Good communication is the basis of good service."
The Brussels region's minister for multilingualism, Sven Gatz, has welcomed the move. "The possibility to be helped in other languages is not only useful, but it shows an open and accommodating attitude towards non-native speakers," he said. "This will only improve the relationship between Schaerbeek residents and the municipality."
In 2016, shortly after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the head of the Brussels Chamber of Commerce voiced his support for making English an official administrative language, at least in the Brussels region.