Brussels is a paradise for learning languages. With two official languages, French and Dutch, and the headquarters of international institutions such as the EU and NATO, this is a truly cosmopolitan city! On the street you are almost as likely to hear Italian, Spanish or German as French, Dutch and English.
More than 55,000 people living in Belgium are part of active Facebook communities created to help expats in Brussels or to facilitate language exchange in this city. To make the most of your time in one of Europe’s most multilingual corners, let the communities help you discover the best places to practice, learn or listen to another language!
Meet up for a “tandem”
If you’re looking for a “tandem” partner to practice a new language with, you are in luck in Brussels. There are plenty of Facebook communities to help you find one, such as “Free Language and Cultural Exchange Brussels”. The idea is an exchange of knowledge: you help someone with your language, and they help you with theirs. Which places do Facebook communities think are the best spots for a tandem?
Café de la Presse | Avenue Louise 493
A casual and quiet place for a tandem, it offers fresh, healthy organic products and meals. Cakes and free wifi make this one of the most popular – and coolest! – spots for language practice.
Brewdog | Putterie 20
Ideally located just by the Central Station, this craft beer gem offers a good spot to meet with your language conversation partner. Popular with native and expat workers finishing their working day or waiting for a train, as well as with Belgian and foreign exchange students, Brewdog is also known for serving up to forty beers on tap, including some from small Belgian producers.
“I created this group because I realised that a lot of expats in Brussels had difficulty finding French speaking people to learn and practice the language with. Now members find tandem partners to practice lots of different languages”. Yasmine Adèle LESIRE – Community Leader of Free Language and cultural exchange Brussels
Join a conversation table
Why should you join a conversation table? Perhaps because, as well as discovering a great and informal atmosphere, you are sure to meet an interesting mix of people – from Erasmus and Belgian students, to local and foreign workers of many nationalities and backgrounds. Popular places to join a conversation table include:
ViaVia Café | Quai aux Briques 74
You can find many language-conversation groups run by “Brussels Conversation Tables” at this bar in a pretty, old corner of Brussels. The ViaVia Café welcomes passers-by in from the cobbled streets through a red door, to talk over a glass of wine or local beer, a cup of hot coffee or organic ginger ale. The former travellers’ café is still full of travel books and board games to inspire conversation.
The Michael Collins | Rue du Bailli 1
A popular Irish pub, just off the elegant Avenue Louise, the Michael Collins sells tasty food and pub drinks. It has a terrace as well as two indoor areas, perfect to practice languages no matter the weather!
Café Bizon | Rue du Pont de la Carpe 7
A tiny, brick-walled bar in the city centre where you can listen to a blues concert after or during your conversation table.
Cafe Caberdouche | Place de la Liberté 8
Homemade food and craft beer in a café proud of its Brussels recipes. Reservations can be made for groups of at least four people, meaning small conversation tables find a welcome here.
Go to museums and cultural activities
The large number of interesting museums in Brussels means you can often pick up an audio guide in your target language and get some listening practice – the Museum of the European Parliament is one free way to do that.
“A good way to learn a language is to organise city tours for tourists, it is fun and you get to show off your city!”. Grégoire Degros – Community Leader of Conversation Exchange in Brussels
Sign up to a language school
Aside from cafes, recommended places to learn and practice languages in Brussels range from libraries and community centres to the Belgian branch of well-known national cultural organisations, such as Instituto Cervantes, Casa do Brazil, the British Council, Het huis van het Nederlands, the Goethe Institut, and the Alliance Française. The I Learn French school offers private courses for companies and adults. You can also find free online classes at Brulingua, an Actiris project.
Go to international events
Facebook communities really do know that the capital of Belgium itself is one of the top spots for language practice. Many language partners will be happy to meet with people from other countries in museums, parks, libraries or anywhere you choose. You can also easily check out regular international events that take place at the end of the working day, such as the Bar Mardi, Apero Afterwork by Brussels Expats, or Place du Luxembourg on Thursdays. For more international events, you can visit the Brussels Expats’ Facebook page.