Why learning Luxembourgish is a good idea

I suspect that you fall in either of the following two categories:

  1. You have just arrived in Luxembourg and are wondering if it is worth learning the national language that is Luxembourgish
  2. You have been living in or near Luxembourg for a while now, you have already picked up a word or two of Luxembourgish and you are beginning to think that you might need more than that to fully take advantage of your Luxembourg experience

It is a tricky question to resolve for yourself whether or not you need to learn Luxembourgish. 

As a foreigner in Luxembourg, you are realizing that you've hardly seen the language written down anywhere and you probably haven't even heard it spoken all that much.  You might be surprised as to how much French and German you hear and see around you and how little Luxembourgish you come across.

Unlike in other countries, our national language was, for a long time, mostly a spoken language. And it is, to this day, possible to live there your entire life without speaking it. People have always had an amazing capability to communicate ideas without a common language. But...

Have a look at the following scenarios that could happen to you: 

  • You meet a beautiful woman, or a handsome man, from Luxembourg. You start dating and meet her or his family for the first time. You realize two things: you can get by without knowing Luxembourgish and you probably won't be able to have deep meaningful conversations with certain family members, the kind that go beyond talking about the weather or how good the food is.

 

  • After having lived in Luxembourg for five years, you want to acquire your Luxembourg citizenship and realize that you now need to scramble to learn Luxembourgish as it is a prerequisite for citizenship. After having learned the basics, you are sitting in a traffic jam one day, listening to the traffic announcements on Luxembourg radio and understanding them for the first time. You are wondering what else of Luxembourg's social, cultural and political scene you have missed out on.

 

  • You are just waking up from a minor operation you had done in a Luxembourg hospital and want to communicate to the Luxembourgish nurse that you feel a burning sensation around the wound.

 

  • You are in a business meeting and two Luxembourgish co-workers have had a heated debate over an issue for the past five minutes. You throw a question mark to the person sitting beside you but all he says is "He thinks it's too risky to implement the project." Can you retrieve all the details to make an informed decision?

Is it necessary to learn Luxembourgish?

It depends on what you want to do in this country. If you are here only for a few years and work in a company where everybody speaks your native language and you don’t have kids who are attending public school, you won't be able to take advantage of the full Luxembourg experience, but you are probably going to be fine without it. Only remember that you might like it and stay longer than you had planned.

On the contrary, if you want to maximize your potential to:

  • make friends
  • communicate with family
  • understand the culture, history and politics of Luxembourg
  • navigate with ease through interactions with Government agencies and officials
  • find a common language between people of different nationalities (for example, an English speaker, a French speaker and a German speaker)
  • progress at work through increasing your understanding of what is being said around you and allowing others to speak in their native language to contribute best in the fields they are experts in
  • understand the language your children speak and further their success at school
  • expand your mind, and CV, by learning a foreign language

then yes! You absolutely need to learn Luxembourgish.