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What language is spoken in Luxembourg? Official and spoken
Luxembourg official language: what is it?
In Luxembourg, the official language is not just one, but three languages spoken correctly by the majority of the population: Luxembourgish, French and German.
Given the importance of the country, due to its strategic position in the center of Europe and on the borders with great powers such as Belgium, Germany and France, over time people have increasingly started to use all three languages. It is somewhat the same that happened in Holland, and the reason why the languages spoken in Amsterdam -besides the official one- are different.
In particular, the Luxembourgish language is spoken by 90% of the population of Luxembourg, and the percentage is divided into:
● 77% of people who speak Luxembourgish as their mother tongue;
● 13% who speak it as a second language
Considered the national language, it was recognized by law as the country's official language in 1984, and around 390,000 people around the world speak it, including inhabitants of areas bordering Belgium, Germany and France. As we have seen, in fact, when we talked about what language is spoken in Belgium, it is common among these "passage" countries that there is no proper language, but that different languages taken from border countries are used.
Even more updated data than the previous ones report a slight decrease (82% total in 2012), a sign that the Luxembourgish language is slowly giving more and more space to French and German.
The language of Luxembourg belongs to West Central German, and is therefore a Germanic language, although it has been heavily influenced by French. To give a small example, the French word "Chaffeur", which in German translates as "Busfahrer", even becomes "Buschaffeur" in Luxembourgish.
This language is used in kindergarten and primary school, but there are no Luxembourgish textbooks, only German or at least French. It is also used in television for daily programs, and is considered the most "colloquial". For everything else, however, the other languages of the country are preferred.
In practice, we can say that the Luxembourgish language is the language most "heartfelt", and knowing it is also essential in order to be able to apply for naturalization and acquire citizenship in Luxembourg.
French is now the second most spoken language in Luxembourg, with a percentage of 86%.
It is by far the most used language for written communication, despite the 1984 Law putting all three on the same level, and says that they can be used equally in courts and administrations.
The same law, however, specifies that French is the only language that can be used in legislation, and therefore all legal texts are written in French. But it is also the preferred language for administration, and the main one used within companies with 56%, against 20% of Luxembourgish, 18% of English and only then 6% of German.. If you have intending to live and work in Luxembourg, choose to take a French course before leaving and you will have no problem making yourself understood in a possible workplace.
French is also found in everything related to communicating with the public: newspaper articles, announcements, press releases, but also around the road signs and billboards.
Although there are three official languages in Luxembourg, French is certainly the one that finds most use both in daily life and in bureaucratic and working aspects.
German is the third most spoken language in Luxembourg, with a percentage of 71%, against 92 a few years ago.
What is it used for? In many cases, such as for example to learn to write and read: literacy in Luxembourg takes place in German, which then becomes a subject of study in middle and high school.
It is not uncommon to find it also in written communications, especially in newspaper articles or announcements, alternating with French. The curious fact is that there is no translation, in either case, and often in the same newspaper you can read some articles in one language and some in the other.
As we saw earlier, however, German is hardly spoken at all within the corporate context, with only 6% of companies applying it. This means that knowing German is not enough to live in Luxembourg, and especially to find work in this country.
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Other languages spoken in Luxembourg
It may seem incredible, but the languages spoken in Luxembourg are not limited to Luxembourgish, French and German! There are also many other languages used in this country, also and above all due to immigration: Luxembourg is currently the richest country in all of Europe, and is known for the tax advantages it offers to those who decide to open a business there. activity, so it is not so strange that it has attracted many new inhabitants over time. In 2021, the percentage of foreigners was 47.12% of the total population: almost half!
And here in Luxembourg the languages spoken increase, and we find:
● English, with 81%: most people know English and apply it correctly;
● Portuguese, with 28%: a good part of Luxembourg's foreign inhabitants are of Portuguese nationality, and the figure is constantly increasing;
● Spanish, with 22%;
● Flemish, with 13%: it is a set of Dutch dialects spoken in the Belgian region of Flanders.
Furthermore, according to a 2011 survey, a small percentage of the inhabitants of Luxembourg (2.9%) speak Italian. That figure has most likely changed today, since in 2021 Italians represented the third largest migratory flow in the country with 1909 new residents, against 3885 Portuguese and 3590 French.
Basics of the Luxembourgish language: some useful phrases
If you are about to leave for Luxembourg, knowing a few strategic phrases of the Luxembourgish language can be very useful for relating to people, for putting your linguistic skills into practice and also for challenging yourself and your adaptability a little.
So here are some phrases and words that may come in handy during your days in Luxembourg:
● Villmools = thank you Expect a response like “Keng Ursaach” or “Gär geschit”, which means “you are welcome”.
● Wann ech gelift = please This is a courteous and polite form that applies in different contexts, even in the supermarket or in shops when buying/receiving something.
● Wéi see een dat op Lëtzebuergesch? = how do you say this in Luxembourgish? If you're trying to learn the language, ask this question whenever you don't know a phrase, word or phrase.
● Wéi spéit ass et? = what time is it?
Literally we would translate it "how late is it?": a bit like the English who instead of asking "how old are you?" they ask you “how old are you?”.
● Et deet mer werklech leed = I'm sorry You can use it for example if you bump into someone walking down the street, or if you didn't understand what was said to you.
● Wou ginn ech hin…? = where do I have to go to…? The best way to ask a passerby for directions. You can also start your sentence with “Ech sichen…”, or “I am looking for…”.
And now, a few words useful in everyday conversations:
● Moien = hello
● Wéi geet et lech? = how are you?
● Et freet mech = nice to meet you
● Wéi ass d'Wieder? = how is the weather?
As you can see, the Luxembourgish language is not very simple for us, being a Germanic language with very different characteristics from Italian. If you intend to spend a longer period in Luxembourg than just a holiday, then it is advisable to learn well one of the two most used languages between German and French, and the latter of these is the best overall.