Luxembourg is a small country in Europe with around 600.000 inhabitants (State institute for statistics – Statec: January 2018). The national language is called Luxembourgish which, alongside German and French an official language of the country. In 1984, Luxembourgish was legally declared as the national language. Before that law, the Luxembourgish language was not used in written form for official purposes.
The three languages can be used for administrative and judicial purposes. However, German and French are more common than Luxembourgish in terms of writing. In everyday life, the Luxembourgish population is switching between these languages, depending on the context. According to data published by Statec (2011), about 70% of the population is using Luxembourgish at home, school and work every day. Comparatively, French is used by 55% and German by 30% of the population.
At school, Multilingualism is promoted at a very young age. Children in Luxembourg are enrolled in preschool at the age of 4. They are taught in Luxembourgish during the first two years of school. Furthermore, children are also in contact with French e.g. via songs and storytelling. The children often have many different linguistic backgrounds, which are recognised by the teachers and integrated into school life.
Afterwards, the children move to primary school. During the first year, they will be taught how to read and write in German. All the subjects are officially in German, however music, sports and painting are often in Luxembourgish. During this first year, the children learn some notions of French, which will take a bigger role later on (at the start of the second year). An important fact worth knowing, is that Luxembourgish is taught one hour per week. During that lesson, children speak and read in Luxembourgish.
At high school, the children start with studying English during their second year. According to the school guidance from primary school to the high school, mathematics and sciences are in French or in German while Latin is optional. Higher classes can even choose Spanish, Italian or other languages depending on the specificities of the branch the students choose and what the school offer. However, private schools and schools with different teaching approaches may work differently.
The Luxembourgish language
Due to the geographical situation of Luxembourg, the Luxembourgish language is strongly related to German and French. The language developed from a Mosellan-Francon dialect preserving a Germanic structure and grammar, but including a large French vocabulary. During the nineteenth century, the dialect, which was often classified as a variety of German, became an independent language.
The Luxembourgish language became more and more popular in the last few decades. The new technologies helped to promote the language, in oral and written form. Luxembourgish dictionaries (e.g. Lëtzebuerger Online Dictionnaire) and websites for the right spelling (e.g. spellchecker) are created to support the use of the language. Furthermore, the Luxembourgish association of translator and interpreters, which is translating in 25 different languages includes Luxembourgish in their repertoire.
Written by Gilles Loran – Student in “Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts” at the University of Luxembourg