This local ‘language’ is often described as a dialect of German, though it’s also related to Dutch and has adopted many words from French. For the most part, Letzeburgisch is a spoken language used by the ‘true’ Luxembourgeois among family and close friends (perhaps as a means of identifying each other in a country where half the population are foreigners!). If you already know German, you’ll probably be able to pick it up fairly quickly, although there are some local variations that are largely incomprehensible to all but natives! French and German (the standard varieties) are widely spoken and used throughout Luxembourg, French being the language of choice for most government and administrative functions and German the language of the media. English is also widely spoken and understood in businesses and shops.
While it may be possible to work for a multinational company knowing only English, it’s highly recommended to know some French or German (or better still, both) before you start looking for work in Luxembourg. The government employment service claims that bilingualism is a ‘minimum’ requirement, with a third language strongly recommended for anyone seeking employment in the Duchy. Because of its use in administrative matters, French is considered the more ‘formal’ and businesslike of the national languages. If in doubt which language to use in any given situation, French is normally the safer choice, especially in professional situations or any dealings with government agencies or officials. German is often associated in popular usage with the lower classes and less skilled workers.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg.