Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Know your Flemmish

Belgium is a multi-lingual country.  In various parts one will encounter French, Flemish, Dutch and/German.  When one changes sections, the signs change.  What makes this particularly interesting is the change in directional signs.

In the French parts signs direct us to Paris, Bruxelles, Mons, Soignes, and Namur.  I'm guessing you can quickly figure out that Bruxelles is Brussels.  Now try this...

Upon exiting the Brussels airport, you can go to the train station and find trains that will take you to Parjis, Bergen, Zinnik, and Namur.  You got Parjis right?  Namur as well.  What about Bergen and Zinnik?

Bergen = Mons
Zinnik = Soignes

Not as easy.  When I am heading home from Brussels, I have to start by following the signs to Bergen and then switch over to following the signs to Mons.

Why such a change in name?  Actually the name stays the same, it's just that the translation is so different.  Mons means mound/hill in French.  Bergen means the same but in Flemmish.  It would be as if we called Detroit - Of the Strait or San Antonio - St. Anthony.  Just think about all the languages represented in our place names within the US - French, Spanish, several Native American languages, English, Dutch.  We could easily have a crazy system of road signs, I guess I should be grateful, I only have to work in two languages.

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