Luxembourg is a resolutely multilingual environment: the majority of Luxembourgers speak four languages and the rate of foreign residents almost reaches 50% of the total population. The languages spoken vary according to the context. Within the field of administration, at least the three administrative languages – Luxembourgish, French and German – are used, while German is the dominant language in print media. At work, in the public sphere and as part of collective activities, however, it all depends on the context.
Apart from the commonly used languages in Luxembourg, other languages are also spoken, especially English, Italian and Portuguese, but also Slavic or Nordic languages, a symbol of the rather substantial expat communities of Luxembourg.
But just to reassure you: it is a rare occurrence not to find a common language in Luxembourg.
Visiting the country
The tourist sector is very open to different languages. All the websites are multilingual and most tourist attractions have leaflets in various languages. As a large number of cross-border workers work in the hospitality and gastronomy sector, French and German are used almost universally, and English is also a very popular language.
According to the provisions of the Languages Law of 1984, 'French, German or Luxembourgish may be used' in administrative and judicial matters. This means that citizens can apply to the administration in any of these three languages, and that officials must attempt 'as far as possible' to respond in the language used by the applicant. Legislative documents are written in French and an important consequence of this on a judicial level is that only the French language text is deemed authentic for all levels of public administration.
According to a 2018 study of the Ministry of National Education, 98% of the Luxembourg population speaks French, 80% speaks English, and 78% speaks German. Luxembourgish is used by 77% of the population.
French is the main communication language, followed by Luxembourgish, German, English and Portuguese. French is used particularly in trade, hotels, restaurants and cafes, mainly in the capital and its surrounding area.
English is the lingua franca of the large international community working at the European institutions and of people employed in the banking and industrial sectors. English has become the language for business and finance, and it is very frequently used at meetings among people of different nationalities.
Because the community of Portuguese immigrants is so large, they often use their mother tongue in the workplace (especially in the construction, hotel and cleaning industries) as well as during their leisure time (clubs, societies, cafes, etc.).
The Luxembourg educational system places an emphasis on languages. Consequently, Luxembourg pupils learn at least three foreign languages as part of their schooling. The system also offers a wide range of measures and subjects that are aimed at integrating foreign pupils.
Media and print media
Luxembourgish is the most widely used language on Luxembourg's radio stations and TV channels. Yet other languages are available: the radio station of the daily newspaper L'Essentiel broadcasts in French and ARA City Radio station in Italian, English, Portuguese, etc.
Luxembourg's written press has always been multilingual. German has always been the language of choice for the written press, although French has made up ground in traditional dailies and certain weekly newspapers. By contrast, articles in Lëtzebuergesch are still the exception. Since a few years ago, there has been a number of publications in English.
Fancy going out to the cinema? All the productions screened in Luxembourg are either original versions with subtitles or versions dubbed in German or French.
There are no specific rules in terms of theatre plays: Luxembourgish, German, French, English, Portuguese, Italian – a wide range of languages and productions are available.
Shopping and shopping for groceries
A large number of employees in retail are French-speaking. Luxembourgish and German are also used.
At police stations
Police officers speak fluent Luxembourgish, French and German. They may also speak other languages depending on their origins.
The spoken language on the political stage is Luxembourgish, even though French is mostly used as a written language.
All language combinations are possible in the context of collective activities. From local marching bands to expat clubs, you can be sure to find a suitable association. Here again, the country's three administrative languages are mostly used, but in Luxembourg, no one is excluded from collective activities based on the language they speak.
Generally, people appearing in court may express themselves in the language of their choice. An interpreter is provided for anyone who does not speak one of the Grand Duchy's three languages.