The Kingdom of Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. A number of non-official, minority languages and dialects are spoken as well.
The Belgian Constitution guarantees, since the country's independence, freedom of language in the private sphere. Article 30 specifies that "the use of languages spoken in Belgium is optional; only the law can rule on this matter, and only for acts of the public authorities and for legal matters." For those public authorities, there is extensive language legislation concerning Dutch, French and German, even though the Belgian Constitution does not explicitly mention which languages enjoy official status. Article 4 does however divide the country into linguistic areas, which form the basis of the federal structure: "Belgium has four linguistic areas: The French-speaking area, the Dutch-speaking area, the bilingual area of Brussels Capital and the German-speaking area."
Before the federal structure and the language legislation gradually introduced in the 20th century, French was generally the only language used by public authorities. For example, the Dutch version of the Constitution has enjoyed equal status to the original French one only since 1967, and the German version only since 1991.
Of the inhabitants of Belgium, roughly 59% belong to the Flemish Community, 40% to the French Community and 1% to the German-speaking Community, though these figures relating to official Belgian languages include unknown numbers of immigrants and their children speaking a foreign language as primary language, and of Belgian regional migrants which may be assumed to largely balance one another for natively French and Dutch speakers. There is for instance a large French-speaking population living around Brussels, in Flanders, and who are thus considered as part of the Flemish Community. Though the standard form of Dutch used in Belgium is almost identical to that spoken in the Netherlands and the different dialects spread across the border, it is often colloquially called "Flemish".