A kick-off for a reshuffling of the language hierarchy has been launched: French and German, who used to dominate the Luxembourgish administrative and educational world are facing the English language, a strong competitor brought on by globalisation and the rise of the internet.
Research summary written by Mireille Naegelen, Master student at the University of Luxembourg
Picture credit: pixabay.com
On social media, many young people and content creators tend to use English because their audiences are international. In opposition to this, older generations often complain about the expanding use of English because they are not used to it, or as one of my acquaintances would say: "French was already a burden for me, but I never learned English". To this day, it is the third language introduced in the Luxembourgish school system, starting at approximately the age of 13. English conversation is often neglected in schools and before the rise of the internet only few opportunities to hear and speak the language existed. While society in Luxembourg has changed rapidly in the last two decades, adapting to change is generally challenging.
Recently, public international schools experience higher enrolment numbers in the German and English curriculum tracks as opposed to their French-based alternative (Educstat.lu, n.d.). Julia de Bres states that French "has effectively become the new Math [and] a vast majority of students harbour deep aversions towards it" (2017). Additionally, many classes at the University of Luxembourg are switching to English, following a global trend where academic articles have increasingly been published in the English language. Are these signs announcing the end of French dominance in Luxembourg?
Yet another new cultural trend shows that more Luxembourgish authors choose to write in English. In 2017, Luxembourg's first publishing house for literature in English was founded. Their aim is to offer a platform for writers to express themselves in English rather than in the traditional languages of Luxembourg. "Our young Luxembourgish authors often choose that language.", says Sandra Schmit, translator of the Luxembourgish work of Guy Rewenig. She believes that enthusiasm for the English language is a matter of generation (Reinert, 2017). The offer of English book clubs and stand-up comedy is spreading like mushrooms gradually replacing French as the cultural language in this country.
Even everyday conversations at home are infiltrated by the English language. Switching to other languages is convenient because they might be more well-suited to communicate in certain contexts. People are generally in disbelief when I tell them that my children tend to switch to English even though it is not their home language. This is the case especially when they talk about gaming, computer, and the Internet, but it also affects other topics. Rarely do I ever hear them speak French. Nearly everything they consume nowadays is in English, because, as my children say: "The choice is larger."
Given the fact that this change is a global trend that is largely incorporated in a changing society, can French hold on to its power in the Luxembourgish language sphere or will it eventually be dethroned by the global lingua franca English?
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