I'm trying to determine the appropriate (BCP 47) language tag for Flemish as spoken in Belgium. It seems that Flemish is Dutch as spoken in Belgium (i.e. nl-BE), but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flemish also seems to imply that Flemish is "Vlaams", so perhaps I should use vls.

Are Vlaams and Flemish synonymous? If not, is Flemish more like Dutch than Vlaams?

  • The newly accepted answer contains many inaccuracies; please review my comment below.
    – Keelan
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 8:59

2 Answers 2


"Flemish" technically has a different meaning from "Belgian Standard Dutch" — the latter being the standard form of the Dutch language as spoken in Belgium, much like how "Holland" is often used as a synonym for "The Netherlands", but technically only comprises a region thereof. One may view the dialect map of languages spoken around the Netherlands here. The parts called "Oost Vlaams" — Eastern Flemish, and "West Vlaams" — Western Flemish, in brown, as well as "Zeeuws Vlaams" — Zealandic Flemish, is where Flemish proper is spoken.

There is a big difference between "Standard Dutch" and the various regional dialects. Standard Dutch is for many speakers in the Randstad region of the Netherlands in fact their native language and dialect, as well as increasingly often in eastern and southern parts of the Netherlands; it is virtually never the native language in Belgium where speakers are generally brought up in local dialects but master the standard form at school. The different regional dialects of Dutch are not generally highly mutually intelligible, and as a native speaker of Standard Dutch, I have severe difficulties following many of the actual proper local dialects, as much as an average Canadian would have following say Yorkshire Dialect. Standard Dutch spoken by Belgians however has nigh identical grammar and vocabulary to Standard Dutch spoken by Dutchmen and there should be as few problems in communication as a Canadian speaking general American speaking with an Englishman speaking Received Pronunciation.

In Belgium itself there also exists something called "tussentaal" — in-between language, which could be considered Belgium's own form of "Standard Belgian Dutch", which is generally used among Belgians from different regions to communicate with one another, and often used on t.v. in informal contexts, whereas in formal contexts like newscasts Standard Dutch is used; this is markedly different from Standard Dutch in grammar and core functional vocabulary, but should be easily intelligible to most Dutchmen, partly because it is close enough to it, and partly because Dutchmen are used to it as they watch enough Belgian television.

  • Sounds like als-CH vs de-CH. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 6:49
  • It is not true that "Standard Dutch is for many speakers in the Randstad region ... their native language and dialect". Each of the places in the randstad have their own dialect (though it is true that the differences get smaller due to more communication between regions). Also, Belgian schools do not teach Standard Dutch, but a standardized variant of Belgian Dutch which is different in phonetics and lexicon. This is also the variant spoken on (formal) Belgian TV. Lastly, it is probably a very small part of the Dutch population that regularly watches Belgian TV.
    – Keelan
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 8:58
  • @Keelan each of the places in the randstad having their own dialect doesn't contradict the statement that many speakers there have Standard Dutch as their native language/dialect: if their parents choose to raise them on Standard Dutch, they will simply do so. Now, I don't know how much that actually happens, but in principle it's no different to how, say, Italian is the native language of plenty of Italians, despite regional languages also existing: not everybody is raised in the regional language, and not everyone even knows "their" regional language (also typically called "dialect").
    – LjL
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 22:35
  • @LjL true, though I still wouldn't agree with that statement.
    – Keelan
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 9:01
  • That's fair enough. I just thought it was important to narrow the scope if it properly.
    – LjL
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 15:01

Vlaams is Flemish. Vlaams is the Flemish word for "Flemish".

Whether to regard this as a separate language (that's vls) or as a variant/dialect/whatever of Dutch (nl-BE), seems to be a matter of opinion or political stance.

  • What can you say linguistically though about the difference between Flemish and Dutch (if any)? Accent/syntax/vocab and extent of those? Those are some non-opinionated things.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 14:29
  • 1
    @Mitch I could go into that, but it's probably out-of-scope for this Q & A. But I invite you to post a question about that if you're interested. Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 15:01
  • 1
    It's totally within the scope if it relates to why it is a matter of opinion or political stance.
    – Nardog
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 0:39
  • Flemish has more French influences than Dutch, but also has words that are out of use in Dutch or words that are specifically Flemish for things the Dutch have other words or descriptions for. Dutch and Flemish can still understand each other, but these differences can create misunderstandings.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 18:59
  • 1
    I'm going to be daring and say the IETF seems wrong on this issue. They are not exactly meant to be linguists anyway, are they?
    – LjL
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 23:24

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