French, German, Luxembourgish, Portuguese … I don’t know which one to choose!
By Wise Expat Sage
Dear Wise Expat Sage,
I recently moved to Luxembourg when my partner got transferred here. Before I begin working, I’d like to take a language course to feel more comfortable in social situations. My question: which language should I learn? There are so many to choose from!
When I first moved here, I went to a networking event where I met a language teacher and asked her the same question. She told me Danish was the most important language in Luxembourg, if not all the world. It turned out she was a Danish teacher. I ended up spending nearly 20,000 euros on private lessons with her. Sure, I became fluent and now I’m the Danish teacher going to networking events, but I later realized that she wasn’t being honest with me.
You need to be skeptical of language advice. The person giving the advice is certainly driven by pride or greed, as in the case above. A French speaker might say you should learn French, but deep down it’s only so he can laugh at your terrible accent. Similarly, a German speaker might claim you must learn German, but secretly it’s because she has a long story about a trip to a pottery festival in Hamburg she wants to tell to you in her native language. What about Luxembourgers who encourage you to learn Luxembourgish, you ask? Most often, they just want to see their language rise from 46 to 45 in the European language rankings.
Go with your gut instinct. If English is your language and you feel pretty good with it, don’t give in to peer pressure. People might claim they can’t understand you, but this is a lie. As long as you speak slowly and loudly enough, anyone will get what you are saying. I have a neighbor who only speaks Bulgarian to me and I always understand her. That’s why when she showed up the other evening with a tin of beans and made a twisting gesture, I knew right away she was inviting me for dinner and dancing.
If you really feel the need to communicate in another language, don’t waste time with fancy schools and charlatans who go on about grammar. The truth is that all languages are easy to acquire, otherwise little kids wouldn’t be able to pick them up. Just spend a few days with native speakers. Languages pass from one person to another in a process similar to osmosis. Also, by mimicking someone’s accent and parroting what they’ve said to you, but in reverse order, you’ll find that translingual communication is a piece of cake.
Wes is a wise expat sage who has lived in Luxembourg for precisely eight months longer than you.
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