Profile of an Endangered Language: Walloon

Lionbridge onDemand is proud to be bringing you this blog series designed to profile some of the world's thousands of endangered languages. Yes, that's right - some languages are, in fact, in danger of going extinct. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sets forth the criteria for and categorizes languages that may be endangered or extinct.

This week's profile is on a European language that UNESCO currently characterizes as "threatened": Walloon.

What in the world is Walloon? Well, we're about to hit you with some knowledge. After reading, check out some resources on Walloon and see what you can do to help preserve its legacy!

What is walloon?

        The Walloon Region of Europe, Wallonia

        The Walloon Region of Europe, Wallonia

Walloon, a Romance language, was once the primary language of the Wallonia region of Belgium. It is also spoken in some parts of Northern France and Northeastern Wisconsin in the US. Wallonia takes up roughly half the land area of Belgium, and is today predominantly occupied by French and German speakers.

Walloon came into use between the 8th and 12th centuries and has its roots in Latin. It began to decline in use in the 19th century after France annexed Wallonia in 1795. 

As of the mid-2000's, there are only about 300,000-600,000 Walloon speakers spread across the globe. Preservation groups in Wallonia and Wisconsin aim to not only preserve the language, but to put it back in the spotlight.

fun facts about walloon

                             The flag of Wallonia

                             The flag of Wallonia

Here are some entertaining facts that you may not have known about the Walloon language!

  • Walloon is closely related to French, which also descended from Latin. Many linguists actually categorize Walloon as a dialect of French.
  • Walloon is  one of the langues d'oïl, or oïl languages. This group of languages, including French, is part of the larger group of Gallo-Romance languages.
  • Only 15% of the current population of Wallonia speaks Walloon.
  • In Belgium, there are newspapers, news broadcasts, CDs, books, and plays still put out in Walloon.

walloon resources

Here are a few websites that can provide more education about the history, lexicography, and preservation of Walloon.

The Walloon Language Page

"Preserving Walloon: Wisconsin's Lost Language"

The language divide at the heart of a split that is tearing Belgium apart

Walloon Language Explained

the bottom line

Walloon is a very unique language whose speakers are staunchly dedicated to keeping the language alive and in circulation. With the efforts of Walloon speakers from Wallonia to Wisconsin, the language has been given a fighting chance to survive being stamped out by languages such as French and German.

You may encounter a situation where a Walloon translation is needed. If the need arises, call on your good friends at Lionbridge. Our vast network of over 25,000 linguists allows us to source translators for hundreds of languages, including Walloon. To learn more about our services and our onDemand portal, visit our website.

See you again for our next endangered language profile!


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