Multilingualism and Translation in Occupied Belgium and France during the First World War

Posted by av128 at Mar 11, 2021 12:55 PM |
Prof. Lieven D’hulst (KU Leuven, Belgium)


This lecture looks at multilingual and translation practices occurring in extreme conditions, i.e. wartime. It will study these practices in two Belgian towns and one French city occupied by the German army during the First World War. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Belgium was an officially bilingual country, after a long period of linguistic and political struggle in favour of Flemish. By contrast, legal and administrative monolingualism was unequivocally prescribed in France since the French Revolution.

In 1914, the Germans imposed a new language and translation policy: on the one hand, they designed a Flamenpolitik (Flemish policy) at all levels of public life, intended to entrench deeply the German presence in Belgium, and in the longer run integrate Flanders in a pan-Germanic state. On the other hand, the exclusive position of official French in France was competed by German, giving way to unprecedented multilingual practices and translations.

The analysis and comparison of the language and translation practices will be based on text posters and minutes of city council meetings.


Lieven D’hulst is emeritus professor of French and Francophone literature and Translation Studies at KULeuven / KULeuven campus Kulak.

He is a member of the editorial board of several international journals in translation studies. He is a Knight of the French Ordre des Palmes Académiques and  an elected member of the Academia Europaea (Cambridge).

Share this page: