Not every English word has an equivalent in Luxembourgish - and why that makes it fun.
Sometimes it can be frustrating translating from English to Luxembourgish as some words just don’t seem to have a direct equivalent but rather have to be described in about half a sentence. For a fun example, let’s look at ‘I’m going commando’, which Luxembourgish would translate to ‘Ech hu keng Ënnerwäsch un’ (literally: I have no underwear on). Another example is the ‘hitchhiker’ that we describe as ‘een deen Autostopp mécht’ (literally: one who car stop makes).
That’s what happens when you come into the language-learning process from one of the ‘richest’ languages - in terms of number of words, English is high in the charts with at least a quarter of a million words, according to www.oxforddictionaries.com - to one of the languages that get by with around 50,000 words - that’s the amount of words currently in the French-Luxembourgish dictionary on www.dico.lu.
[The online Luxembourgish spell-checking service at www.spellchecker.lu actually has a total of 190,024 words in their current database but that includes plurals, past tenses and other inflections. If we were to count those in for the English as well, the total amount of words for English would reach three quarters of a million...]
Okay so English wins at number of words. But we have to give some credit to Luxembourgish for being rich in imagination in it’s lengthy descriptions of otherwise simple facts of life. For example, the word ‘parking ticket’ can be directly translated with ‘de Protokoll’ or ‘de Parkticket’ (boring!) but it is much more fun (and common) to say ‘Ech krut ee gepecht’ (literally: I got one glued) because the parking ticket looks like it is ‘glued’ to the windshield. In the same way, the parking enforcer is called ‘de Pechert’ (as in the one who glues).
If you have ever engaged in Luxembourgish small talk, you probably have come across the phrase ‘Alles an der Rei’ (literally: everything in a row) which people will reply when asked how they are. It really just means ‘I’m fine’ but it is a much more interesting image to conjure up when you think of everything being in a row, everything being normal, nothing standing out or being unusual.
What does all this mean if you’re trying to learn Luxembourgish?
Well, the good news is, since there are not as many words in the Luxembourgish language compared to the English language, you don’t have to learn as many words. You can also have fun with the many quirky Luxembourgish expressions, which will hopefully put a smile on your face more often than not.
If you know other examples of fun, imaginative Luxembourgish expressions, please leave a comment.