Why is Luxembourgish rarely written?
The first article in this series "Luxembourg, a language paradise or paradox?" I wrote provoked a big reaction and debate from both foreigners and native Luxembourgers alike.
Therefore I felt this topic deserved a follow-up addressing one particular aspect, as I appear to have only scratched the surface of learning lovely Lëtzebuergesch.
Why is Luxembourgish rarely written? That seems to have been a hot issue for many people with most in agreement that improvement is needed to help promote the language but “there is no standard way of writing Luxembourgish” was a popular reason or ‘excuse’ offered up in many posts. I beg to differ though. There actually is a standard method of writing the language with the last official update in 1999. The "Réforme du système officiel d'orthographe luxembourgeoise" can be found on the government's website.
There are also several books too issued by the "Ministère de l'Éducation Nationale" including "Grammaire de la langue Luxembourgeoise" (or "Grammaire vun der Lëtebuerger sprooch") but has any of this really been enforced? The lack of written language in our everyday lives 19 years down the line says not.
But, when the will is there suddenly everything changes! In October, the country went through a general election and did you notice that this was a purely Luxembourgish language election both spoken and written?
To me it seemed like a switch had been flicked and the ability to write standard Luxembourgish magically appeared. Every poster campaign, every party document from every political party was written in Luxembourgish, and as far as I understand it, good Luxembourgish! Why can’t this be the case the rest of the time? If all political parties can manage this, why can't it filter through to the communes or other state offices?
You see, what it all boils down to is that until Luxembourgish is given an equal footing with French or German, Luxembourgers can’t really complain that foreigners don’t learn the language. Moreover, both French and German have the extra advantage of being widely used in other countries - the biggest argument used by foreigners to pick them over Luxembourgish.
This observation is rife in many of the previous article comments. For me the language needs a good kick up the backside with a decent publicity campaign!
Looking at this in reverse I've attended a couple of Luxembourgish language classes, although I use the term "language" loosely, as in both cases they dug deeply into grammar and writing from the outset.
I used to be an English language teacher in a previous life but I sat there asking myself "why the hell are we learning this?" If Luxembourgish is rarely written and people supposedly don't know how to write it, why are we as foreigners made to learn it? "I want to speak it first, not write it!"
But it does appear that in the foreign language classroom Luxembourgish is placed on equal footing and taught using the exact same method as other languages, possible the only place it is equal.