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Old August 12th, 2013, 08:48 PM   #2161
Penn's Woods
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Amusing Belgian Driving-Related Item (and Exercise in Translation) of the Day:

Not sure what to think about this, actually, so I just offer it for discussion:



Article: http://www.lalibre.be/actu/belgique/...70fb19a88c0ad7

My translation:

FRENCH DRIVERS FLASHED IN BELGIUM NOT PURSUED DUE TO SUMMONSES IN DUTCH

Another very Belgian story.

The linguistic problems that touch and divide our country also have effects abroad. As proof of this, some French motorists are "victims" of the stubbornness of Flemish authorities who only want to send documents in Dutch.

A French motorist was flashed a few weeks ago on our territory and can attest to this complexity particular to Belgium. "I received a few days ago a simple piece of mail in Flemish [sic] from the police in Ghent, in Belgium. To understand this document, I had to call the Belgian police at my own expense. The document asked me, in Flemish, if I wanted to receive the summons in French, Flemish or German, the three official languages of Belgium," he said on the air on France Inter [radio].

An absurdity!

Asking in a first piece of mail what language the addressee wants to receive his summons in (rather than mailing it in his language of origin from the start) is absurd in itself. But to top that, legally, receiving documents in a language other than ones own cancels the fine outright.

"It's completely illegal. There's a European convention that stipulates very clearly that, whatever the gravity of the infraction, you must be able to be notified in a langue you understand of the infractions you're accused of. Therefore, as soon as they write to you in Flemish, it's as if they'd sent you nothing," attorney Eric de Caumont, president of the association of automobile lawyers, contacted by our colleagues at the RTBF [radio & television] assures us.

Change coming in November

In order to avoid such aberrations and no longer leave foreign speeders in impunity, a European agreement will come into effect in November that will obligate authorities in the Schengen zone to send summonses immediately in the language of the offender.
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Old August 12th, 2013, 09:27 PM   #2162
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What a horrible piece of journalism. Where's the response from the police station on that situation? What could have been an interesting piece is turned into a fully one-sided rubbish article that way. Such a shame.

Also, I don't get it. The Flemish are being claimed to be stubborn and only send documents in Dutch, while the next paragraph states that the French motorist received a document to specify which language he wanted to use while the person did get the option to receive a French document. Admittedly, it's plain stupid to send it in Dutch only to someone living in France. But to say that the Flemish authorities only want to send documents in Dutch when they actually ask which language you want to use is twisted logic!

Also, that attorney most likely didn't get the full story to respond to. If you are sent a fine in another language, it is -indeed- as if nothing was sent to you. But this wasn't a fine they sent, it was a document asking which language you'd want to use. Unlike what the article says, that does not cancel the fine as it is completely separate from the fine. Google translate is apparently not that well known in France either if you have to call the police station for an explanation. Also, he got his explanation. I wouldn't even bother trying to call to an Italian, French or German police station and ask in Dutch what they just sent me.
The way the lawyer explains it in the original article, the offender should be able to get an explanation in his own language for a fine. The way it was phrased in the article indicates that it isn't necessary that the first document sent is in the offender's language, but I'm no expert on the matter. I can't see that law being broken here as he was given the chance to get the document in French. I do fear for problems with Spanish, Italian, British, ... drivers though.

I wonder how that European agreement will be executed practically. I fully support that summons are sent in the language of the offender, but how will a police station know which language that offender speaks? It's not because you live in France that you automatically understand French. There are plenty of people in Belgium who understand neither Dutch or French. That said, that document should just have been sent in French, as that is fine in almost all cases. I just hope it was merely an intern who did an improper job and that this was a case of a wrong document being sent out. But as I've said: due to the weak performance of the journalist(s) involved in this article, I guess we'll never know.

EDIT: just read the original article in French and it seems they didn't send a document asking which language the person would want to use. That is bad. That the person there could only ask in Dutch which language the person wants the fine to be written in (and only Dutch, French and German were options) is a bit understandable. As I said above: I don't expect to have Italian police officers replying to me in Dutch. That said, that fine should have been in French, or a document should have been sent to ask which language the person would want to receive his fine in.
EDIT2: striked through some of the text of my original post to respond better to the original article.
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Last edited by Glodenox; August 12th, 2013 at 09:38 PM.
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Old August 12th, 2013, 10:13 PM   #2163
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Indeed: there were definitely a couple of points in the article that didn't make a lot of sense.... Just factually, I'm not talking about bias. (Which is none of my business anyway.) I was sort of thinking people might have their own stories about how speeding summonses across language barriers are handled in the world beyond Belgium. :-)
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Old August 13th, 2013, 01:18 AM   #2164
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Not even across borders, I have such story inside Belgium:

Once caugth speeding in Wallonia somewhere in the province of Namur while I hadn't been in Wallonia for months. They messed up the license plates somehow, maybe the camera took an unclear picture or something. Got the documents in French, they stated I drove 76 in a 50 zone. They didn't want to send a Dutch one nor was I able to get helped in Dutch when I called the police station. Explaining the situation in French over phone was really hard for me. I asked if I they at least could help me in English over the phone. That wasn't possible either. So I tried in my best French but they wouldn't hear me and kept saying I should pay the fine, wich was over 200euro's. So I send an appeal by letter in Dutch to the court in Namur. I never heard anything back neither did I pay the fine. This was 2 years ago.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 03:03 AM   #2165
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Well, some random thoughts:

1) They sent this guy outside Belgium a letter asking if he'd like his summons in French, Dutch or German. Fine as far as it goes, but what do they do if the (alleged) offender's British or Italian or Spanish....

2) Would, say, France (to take a completely random example ) have been prepared to offer papers in Dutch to someone from Antwerp or Amsterdam?

3) I've got to believe that lawyer's full of it: the ticket itself is invalid because they sent this piece of mail first? Please.

4) This send-the-documents-in-the-language-of-the-offender agreement is fine, if you can actually tell what the language of the offender is. And I'd argue it's reasonable to assume someone living in, say, France speaks French, so if your alleged offender happens to be a student living in Paris with a car registered there but who hasn't been there that long and whose first language is English, you (if you're the authorities) wouldn't invalidate the ticket by sending him his papers in French. But what do you do with people where the linguistic situation is messier? Belgians don't need to look beyond their borders to find a major city where that'd be a problem. (Send everyone in Brussels French AND Dutch versions of their papers just so you'd be sure to have sent the right one? SOMEone would be unhappy with that....)

5) And once this agreement's in effect in November... I get the principle of communicating with people accused of violations in their own language - defendants' rights, common courtesy... - but is it practical? How easy is it for police departments in Sweden to produce documents in Maltese, just for example? I can see a boom in the job market for translators, anyway....
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Old August 13th, 2013, 10:45 AM   #2166
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post
1) They sent this guy outside Belgium a letter asking if he'd like his summons in French, Dutch or German. [...]
I've read the original article and it doesn't seem like the document they sent asked that question. He received the fine in Dutch and was then offered by telephone to have it sent in French

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post
3) I've got to believe that lawyer's full of it: the ticket itself is invalid because they sent this piece of mail first? Please.
I think that the law allows people to ignore summons sent in another language, but I can't see how it can invalidate the ticket as a whole indeed. If people get a reminder afterwards in their own language, they will most likely be able to prevent the additional costs involved that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post
5) And once this agreement's in effect in November... I get the principle of communicating with people accused of violations in their own language - defendants' rights, common courtesy... - but is it practical? How easy is it for police departments in Sweden to produce documents in Maltese, just for example? I can see a boom in the job market for translators, anyway....
I can see a practical solution for it that would probably cover 99% of all cases. There are only so many reasons to get a fine, so if a standard template is created for each language, they'd just have to fill in the numbers, name, address, number plate, etc. without needing to know the actual language themselves. I think it would work best if the EU just provides these templates. They've got tons of translators already and the task of translating these standard templates isn't as big as you'd think.
They'd still need translators for those edge cases that fall outside of the standard templates though.

Also, my parents have once gotten a fine from Wallonia. A car of the same type as ours used a tampered number plate that corresponded with ours. It was completely in French, we called them (in French) and then they noticed that the number plate had a couple of holes drilled in it and they immediately dropped the fine. I'm not sure what would've happened if we didn't know how to speak French...
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Old August 13th, 2013, 11:45 AM   #2167
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Its indeed a bad piece of journalism.
If they did a little bit of research, they would know that this is also the case in most other countries.
For example: someone in family was flashed in France. He received the documents in French, while he is Dutch. And their was no way to request a copy of the documents in Dutch.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 12:08 PM   #2168
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The point they made was that French is also an official language of Belgium. People however seem to forget that every region in Belgium only has one single official language, be it the German speaking cummunity, the French speaking community or the Dutch speaking community, and not 3 like the whole of Belgium.

Anyway he could have received them in French if he liked to. Case closed.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 12:14 PM   #2169
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Still, I think it's an interesting subject that I had completely overlooked. It's one of those things that should be arranged on a European level.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 02:30 PM   #2170
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glodenox View Post
I've read the original article and it doesn't seem like the document they sent asked that question. He received the fine in Dutch and was then offered by telephone to have it sent in French
....
I just went back to the article. I originally read "Il m'est demandé" as referring to the letter, you read it as referring to the phone call to the police... It's actually not clear! (In the journalist's defense, the French guy's being quoted directly at this point so it's his fault...) And I "fixed" my translation according to my interpretation - in good faith, the other possibility didn't occur to me. Thus illustrating another problem working across language barriers!


Quote:
Originally Posted by joshsam View Post
The point they made was that French is also an official language of Belgium. People however seem to forget that every region in Belgium only has one single official language, be it the German speaking cummunity, the French speaking community or the Dutch speaking community, and not 3 like the whole of Belgium.

Anyway he could have received them in French if he liked to. Case closed.
The "the three official languages of Belgium" bit is the French guy's fault again.

But what do you do with Brussels (or facilities areas)?

But you're right: they did offer him a French version. Case closed, or ought to be closed, indeed. So what's the guy doing on the radio (in France) talking about it? I know it's August and journalists don't have enough legitimate things to talk about - in England they call this the Silly Season - but I'm sort of surprised France Inter (the radio station that apparently started all this) even cares.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 02:39 PM   #2171
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post

The "the three official languages of Belgium" bit is the French guy's fault again.

But what do you do with Brussels (or facilities areas)?

But you're right: they did offer him a French version. Case closed, or ought to be closed, indeed. So what's the guy doing on the radio (in France) talking about it? I know it's August and journalists don't have enough legitimate things to talk about - in England they call this the Silly Season - but I'm sort of surprised France Inter (the radio station that apparently started all this) even cares.
We call this period "komkommertijd"

Anyway, It's just that any reason to stir the tempers between Dutch and French side is a good reason. They know sides will react and some people will cross the line in their reaction. I don't want to make sterEotypes but French snobbism rules once more? The man couldn't stand he got papers in Dutch and went to the radio station and did his story? What a shame, they didn't send him papers in French. Those Flemish must hate French speakers. Stereotype confirmed by both sides?

ps: Was the writer of the article Brisavoine?
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Old August 13th, 2013, 02:51 PM   #2172
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post

The "the three official languages of Belgium" bit is the French guy's fault again.

But what do you do with Brussels (or facilities areas)?
Facility area's have facilities in French and/or Dutch so it would be normal if the person is French speaking has the option to receive the papers in French or the other way around.

For Brussels I guess the papers are bi-lingual by default.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 03:04 PM   #2173
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I find it a bit annoying that the Dutch language in Belgium is often named Flemish by French and English speaking journalists/news agencies, while Dutch is the official language of Flanders. It sounds the same like constantly referring to the language of the south as Walloon instead of French.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 03:30 PM   #2174
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To be fair, Gent/East Flemish accents at least pretty much are another language. Seriously (in complete contrast to Dutch people) I could scarcely understand a word outside very short sentences you might use when making a transaction, or whatever.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 03:37 PM   #2175
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^I'm from Limburg and I understand 90% of what they say in the Ghent region. Only the local dialect words I don't understand. It's not like it's another language like Fries or Afrikaans If you go more towards the polders, then it gets harder to understand West-Flemish, East-Flemish is not that hard.






Edit: Wait untill they start rapping in West-Flemish
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCLbQ2Xf9i4
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Old August 13th, 2013, 04:16 PM   #2176
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I find it a bit annoying that the Dutch language in Belgium is often named Flemish by French and English speaking journalists/news agencies, while Dutch is the official language of Flanders. It sounds the same like constantly referring to the language of the south as Walloon instead of French.
I didn't realize - and I'm a language geek - that "Flemish" and Dutch were the same language until my first trip to the Continent, when I was trying to find "Flemish" phrase books in Paris because I was going to be in Belgium.... But blame those journalists and news agencies. (And the original Trivial Pursuit thinks French is the first language in Belgium. I got that question once. Convinced the scorekeeper I knew better than the card :-) )
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Old August 13th, 2013, 04:36 PM   #2177
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post
I didn't realize - and I'm a language geek - that "Flemish" and Dutch were the same language until my first trip to the Continent, when I was trying to find "Flemish" phrase books in Paris because I was going to be in Belgium.... But blame those journalists and news agencies. (And the original Trivial Pursuit thinks French is the first language in Belgium. I got that question once. Convinced the scorekeeper I knew better than the card :-) )
That's a funny story Its fascinating how unknown Belgium actually is in the western world (including in the UK and the Netherlands)
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Old August 13th, 2013, 05:18 PM   #2178
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Ugh, another Belgian thread with the whole language discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joshsam View Post
Typically roads constructed in the 60ties and 70ties have these setup in Belgium.Probably there used to be a suicide lane in the middle and the road had hard shoulders and is now widened to a 2x2 road with no dividers.
This road is a remnant of the old days.

https://maps.google.be/?ll=51.301554...109.37,,0,10.6

A bit further away (nearer to Antwerp), the suicide lane is often interrupted.
https://maps.google.be/?ll=51.284199...49.88,,0,11.44

Like you said, this kind of roads used to be very common in Belgium. Since some time (I don't know how long) they have been adapted to the styles you posted. I assume that the old style was too dangerous.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 05:22 PM   #2179
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Ugh, another Belgian thread with the whole language discussion.
...
I'm sorry. [hangs head in shame]

Not really. :-P
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Old August 13th, 2013, 08:01 PM   #2180
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Ugh, another Belgian thread with the whole language discussion.
True, but a tread about Belgium isn't a proper Belgian tread without a language dispute every few pages.
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