Pardon my French

By Audrey SomnardLex KlerenMisch Pautsch Switch to French for original article

The Grand Duchy is part of the great family of the French-speaking world. On this world day of March 20, how did this language impose itself throughout history to become a pillar of national multilingualism? A brief look back at a language that is sometimes unloved.

"En français, s'il vous plaît", is the phrase that has the knack of irritating more than one Luxembourger in everyday life. French is one of the country's three official languages, the administrative language. Neither a mother tongue for a large proportion of residents, nor a completely foreign language, French is considered by many to be the lingua franca that is celebrated on March 20, the International Day of La Francophonie. A distant heritage, but from when exactly? While it is commonly accepted that Luxembourg is part of the large family of the Francophonie, one has to go back a long way to find out the sources of the use of French in the Grand Duchy.

According to a Statec study published in 2019, Lëtzebuergësch remains the language that Luxembourg residents are most fluent in (76 per cent), followed by French (10 per cent), German (4 per cent), Portuguese (3 per cent) and English (3 per cent). Among non-Luxembourg residents, the first language spoken is French (31 per cent), followed by Portuguese (25 per cent), English (9 per cent) and German (7 per cent). French is the main language of communication, followed by Lëtzebuergësch, German, English and Portuguese. French is mainly used in the trade sector and in the hotel, restaurant and café sector, mainly in and around the capital. According to a 2018 study by the Ministry of National Education, 98 per cent of the Luxembourg population speaks French, 80 per cent speaks English and 78 per cent speaks German.

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