Monday, December 17, 2007

It's all Dutch to me

The language divide that has led to Belgium's political deadlock has also spread to its Miss Belgium contest. French-speaking Miss Belgium winner Alizee Poulicek, 20, was booed by parts of a 3,400-strong Antwerp audience when she revealed she could not speak Dutch.

When the show's presenter quizzed her on her hopes for the future, she said: "I didn't understand, can you repeat?"

Ms Poulicek says she has been taking language lessons and has promised to improve her standard of Dutch.

The beauty queen's language skills take on a wider significance as Belgium is still without a government six months after elections amid political stalemate between the main Dutch- and French-speaking parties.

In halting Dutch, Ms Poulicek told the Flemish network, VRT: "I have to try to learn more." She then went on in French: "I spoke almost no Dutch when I started this adventure."

The daughter of a Czech father and a Belgian mother, she has spent half her life in the Czech Republic.

The organiser of the contest, Darlene Davos, said it could have been far worse. "It is the least painful thing," she said. "I would consider it different if they had said: 'Miss Belgium is an ugly girl'."

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