Why is learning Luxembourgish relevant when moving to Luxembourg?

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written by Stephanie Buchler

The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for many expats. Over the past few years, many international companies and institutions have opened offices in the medieval country in the heart of Europe. Public transport will become free in 2020, and the number of holidays and high salaries are further assets drawing many young professionals to the country.

For many newcomers, however, the multilingualism of the country is one of the biggest challenges.

How does one integrate in a country with three official languages, where English is not even one of them? 

The good news is that even though English isn’t an official language in Luxembourg, it’s still a widely spoken language understood by many locals, especially in and around Luxembourg City. Still, it won’t hurt brushing up your French or learning the basics when moving to Luxembourg.

But what about Luxembourgish?

It’s true that the small language, spoken by only about 400 000 native speakers, might not seem worth learning when you’ve only just moved to Luxembourg and have a billion of other things to deal with. And plus, if French and German are also official languages, wouldn’t it make more sense to learn those languages first, considering they seem to be more widely spoken?

Yes and no. While knowing basic French is essential when it comes to surviving in Luxembourg on a day-to-day basis, German isn’t actually that important. You might think that if you’re already going to sacrifice your free-time (and sanity) to start learning a Germanic language, German would make more sense than Luxembourgish. But as a Luxembourg native, I don’t think that’s the case - unless you need it for work or plan to move to Germany in the future, of course.

In fact, there are a couple of things that make learning Luxembourgish more relevant than the other official languages. 

The first one is obviously integration. While it’s true that about half of Luxembourg’s population are foreigners, that doesn’t mean that only half of the country speaks Luxembourgish. Many foreigners living in Luxembourg speak the language in their everyday life, such as at work or with their children. 

While it’s true that you no longer need to speak Luxembourgish to survive in Luxembourg, it will certainly open doors, especially if you’re thinking about staying for more than just a few months. If you have kids attending a local nursery, kindergarten or primary school, being able to talk to the other parents and teachers in Luxembourgish will be a big advantage for yourself and your children.

In general, staying in Luxembourg in the long run has many advantages. Did you know that it’s relatively easy to obtain Luxembourgish citizenship? Everyone who has lived in Luxembourg for five years can apply for it. One of the official requirements to obtain citizenship is to pass a Luxembourgish language exam called ‘Sproochentest’. The exam itself is not that difficult if you have been preparing for it adequately, i.e. investing about 1-2 years into learning the language. And while Luxembourg does have three official languages, the only one you need to show evidence of speaking in order to get citizenship is Luxembourgish!

One final reason for learning Luxembourgish is the social aspect. While you might have made friends at your new job already, chances are that they’re fellow expats, too. Only a small number of Luxembourgers work for international companies or institutions these days, and you’ll find most of them at public administrations or local companies. 

You might feel a bit lost when it comes to meeting fellow Luxembourgers with whom you could practise your Luxembourgish. Many of us like to engage in social activities after work or on the weekend. Sports clubs, volunteering with local charities or going out for drinks - in the city centre or local parties - are particularly popular. Check out events in your town or commune, join a club and make new friends! The other possibility to practise your Luxembourgish is to join one of our “Talk with a Luxembourger” Skype courses where you can chat in Luxembourgish with a teacher present to correct your mistakes. Unlike our main Skype courses, there is no grammar in our “Talk with a Luxembourger” courses so you can just focus on speaking.

If you’ve been living in Luxembourg for a while already, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this. In what ways has learning Luxembourgish improved your experience of living in Luxembourg? Leave your comments below, and don’t forget to share this article with your friends!