U10 #1 – Branding your Home Town: Luxembourg. What a mess.

After a little break from any kind of work (except for working on preparing the last few of the &London notebooks and other items for my Etsy Shop), it is now time to get back into work before the crazyness of the christmas days takes over.

So after the final crit on December 6th for the Home Town brief before which I was stuck, I was left with a lot more work and research and analysis and most of all reasoning to do. Back in Luxembourg, I am now completely in the problem and debate of the Luxembourgish language, its usefulness (or uselessness, depending from which point of view you are looking at apparently), its value, and what it brings to Luxembourg as a country and the people using it.

Not only does it seem like it but the more people I talk to the clearer the opinions are divided:
Luxembourgish is useless for foreigners to learn or mostly even just too inconvenient as they can easily continue to speak the languages they are used to which are mainly French, sometimes German as these languages are understood by Luxembourgish speaking residents, or another language of its own as they build and stay in their own communities such as Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic or other cultures.
Luxembourgers who grew up in Luxembourg and spent their whole life in Luxembourg and have Luxembourgish as their first language find the fact that they cannot speak their first language in their home country unfair for them and it seems as if they are less unwelcome to live out the Luxembourgish habits, have to adapt to a changing environment (and everyone knows that humans are not that happy with change) instead of keeping their well known habits.

Luxembourg is a country woven by a lot of different traditions and influences. With over half of the residents consisting in foreign immigrants, the Luxembourgish culture is merged with the new additions, and so is the language and culture. From the Luxembourgers, a new openness and tolerance of change in their heritage is asked, while it often seems to them that their heritage in terms of language is forgotten and disappearing. In the fear of losing Luxembourg as heritage while it is turning into a multi-cultural platform, they turn into over-protective residents and feelings of needing to save the Luxembourgish traditional language emmerge. For people that grew up in Luxembourg, in a Luxembourgish-speaking society (most importantly for those that have grown up and been living here all of their long life years), it is obviously not difficult to communicate in their maternal language  that is Luxembourgish for them. It therefore is unnecessary to explain the wish to be able to speak in one single language at least at home in Luxembourg. However, in most cases, this is not possible. People that have heard from Luxembourg (while even knowing where it is or that it exists is not always a given for some people) are most of the times unaware of the existence of Luxembourgish language. Even countries that are bordering with Luxembourg, which are Germany, Belgium and France, just assume that ‘they’ speak French or German, depending on which language they speak themselves, or even just think that Luxembourg is part of their countries (especially for France and Germany, Belgium being more aware of Luxembourg due to it’s association with the Netherlands to create the Benelux in the middle of the 20th century). Luxembourgish was stated as a national language in 1978 only, next to French and German which have been official languages in Luxembourg for longer. As a visitor, it is very easy to communicate in French or sometimes German (and English most of the times). It is very seldom to speak to a person that can only speak Luxembourgish. Therefore it is very logical for visitors to think that these are the only languages to speak in Luxembourg, as Luxembourgish is not as present and persistent as in other countries which only have one official language. If you would take for example Canada, which is bilingual in French and English, you would still know which was the first language to use according to the region. Luxembourg as a tiny country is just a mix of different languages, all thrown together into a pot of mixtures and cultures, and you can speak whatever you want and still somehow find a way to communicate (with people that speak more than one language in Luxembourg, that is). It would probably be logical to compare Luxembourg to Switzerland with their Swiss-German, French, Italian and Romansh as languages. But even there are distinctive regions in which to speak the specific languages, so you would know what language to use in the specific areas (Though this is also changing there too, as nationalities merge and people move around in the world).

People growing up in a country with different languages get a kind of ease to switch between these and other different languages, especially through the development in a young age. Here it is not unusual to grow up speaking at least four languages, most of the times even more. However it also depends on the environment that people grow up. If at home the family can or even insists in speaking only a language that is not commonly used in Luxembourg, it makes the integration of the children into the Luxembourgish society and more importantly into social status very difficult.
Language (in Luxembourg as well as in other countries) often creates a barrier for immigrants or foreigners looking to find a better future or a new chance in another country. It is important to transfer the traditions and cultures of the original nationality through the family especially in a different country, but to ignore the culture of the new country is not an ideal way to integrate into a new society. To stop trying to adapt to a culture by ignoring or revolting from learning the Luxembourgish language after moving there because it is simply easier to continue speaking in French or German or English as ‘Luxembourgish is useless anyway’ is not a fair way that would help to find a solution to the social differences or exclusions.

Luxembourgish is a language that is spoken by only about 500.000 people in the world. One might say that it is a useless language, but it carries heritage and culture, is the maternal language of a lot of these people and after all an official language to the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. There are still a lot of issues to be resolved with the language and its importance for Luxembourg, and with the little history that it has. However, it is an important part of the country, and if continually neglected, it will disappear in a few generations. Instead of it dissolving, Luxembourgish needs to be transmitted and stay part of the national heritage and nationality. The problem of the languages in Luxembourg is well known these days, so it is good that finally people stop ignoring it and work towards solutions of integration in a multi-cultural little country.


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