Your Guide to Languages in Luxembourg

You’ve just arrived in the Grand Duchy and you’re already flummoxed by the what, why and when of the languages:

  • German got you a ticket on a bus but a blank look in a clothes shop
  • English got you an account in a bank but absolutely nowhere with setting up your Internet connection
  • You got top marks in school for French but you’re drowning in a sea of unfamiliar accents and machine-gun delivery

Never fear — here’s an introduction to the whys and hows of being understood in the Grand Duchy.

In a Nutshell

  • Luxembourgish is a Germanic language and is mainly spoken by the native population
  • German tends to be the second language and widely used in local schools
  • French is the official written language of the country and is spoken by the many French and Belgian cross-border workers
  • Portuguese is also widely spoken as they are the largest minority group in Luxembourg
  • With a large foreign population, English is often a safe bet and is especially popular with younger people

Luxembourgish

It’s possible to get by with German, French and even English as Luxembourgers speak those languages too, but it’s always handy to have a few Luxembourgish phrases on hand. Your efforts can help untangle some of the red tape and speed up any requests. The written form was only officially standardised in 1975 and isn’t written as much as French and German.

French and German

If you can read French, you’ll have a welcome advantage as many contracts, legal documents and forms are written in French.

German is more common outside of the city, especially in the towns near the German border. Most of the national media like the Wort newspaper and radio stations are in German.

Get Prepared

If you are eager to learn Luxembourgish before your move, you can take Skype lessons through Learn Luxembourgish.

Once you’re here you can take one of the many language classes available. The INL‘s reasonable courses are especially popular. Or your employer may offer free classes to their staff.

Download Google Translate on your phone in case you get stuck. Either type or speak into the phone and it’ll translate on the fly.

Take advantage of your commute to practice your French absolutely gratis by reading the free newspaper l’essentiel.

Tips on Making Yourself Understood

Just take a deep breath, swallow your pride and act out what you want! It might not be the most dignified way of making yourself understood. But chances are, the person you’re dealing with has been in the same position themselves.

You may encounter an official in your commune who speaks English but doesn’t seem to understand your requests. Believe it or not, in Luxembourg it is possible to ask the wrong question — just try rephrasing your question or explaining the reason why you are asking.

Perhaps you’re having a problem with your mobile phone but no-one in their call centre speaks English. Instead, try emailing or visiting one of their stores. Google Translate is a decent way to get some French or German vocabulary together. Chances are someone will have enough English to fill in the blanks.

In Short

  • Think ahead
  • Don’t forget your smile and your sense of humour
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • Keep trying!

Originally published at yvonnereilly.com on September 5, 2018.

Yvonne Reilly is a freelance copywriter and editor for hire. Her mission is to make boring business web copy and blogs sparkle.

Yvonne Reilly is a freelance copywriter and editor for hire. Her mission is to make boring business web copy and blogs sparkle.