In Vlaanderen Vlaamsch! Translation Practices in Flemish Legal Journals: The Case of Rechtskundig Tijdschrift voor Vlaamsch-België (°1897)

  • Heleen Van Gerwen KU Leuven


The declaration of Belgian independence in 1830 constituted a major turning point in Belgian language history: French was almost instantly installed as the only official language in public offices and judicial cases, which left the majority of Flemish citizens unable to understand or reply to official documents. While the monolingual French authorities quickly recognized the necessity of providing Flemish translations of laws and decrees, numerous Flemish jurists and officials criticized these official translations for being inadequate, since they contained several errors in syntax and legal terminology. This criticism led to a flow of new translations and ideological commentaries, especially in newly created Flemish legal journals. My contribution seeks to point out the key role of these journals in the process of emancipation and standardization of the Flemish legal language and in the creation of a proper Flemish legal culture. My focus is on the first volume of the legal journal Rechtskundig Tijdschrift voor Vlaamsch-België (1897–98), which actively supported the coming into being of a Flemish legal language and identity. This journal published translations of important francophone judgements, annotated translations of laws and decrees as they appeared in the government journal Moniteur belge, and numerous discussions of jurists on the Flemish legal language.

Author Biography

Heleen Van Gerwen, KU Leuven

Heleen Van Gerwen is Junior Researcher in the research group Translation and Intercultural Transfer at KU Leuven Kulak. Her PhD research is part of the interdisciplinary research project on translation policies in Belgium in the nineteenth century, in which she studies the translation and transfer practices from French into Flemish in the legal and administrative domains.

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