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Call to drop need for newcomers to speak Luxembourgish

Call to drop need for newcomers to speak Luxembourgish

by John MONAGHAN 2 min. 30.07.2021
Speaking French or German should suffice to obtain citizenship, petitioners request in parliament
At least four languages are widely spoken in Luxembourg
At least four languages are widely spoken in Luxembourg
Photo credit: Anouk Antony

(This article was corrected to reflect the fact that the 2016 petition received 14,500 signatures, not 7,000)

Proficiency in French or German - rather than Luxembourgish - should be sufficient for obtaining citizenship in the Grand Duchy, a public petition to lawmakers has urged, a step likely to rekindle the debate about the status of the national language.

Although French, German and Luxembourgish share the status of being the official languages of the country, Luxembourgish is the only one of the trio which is assessed when applying for citizenship.

Anyone wishing to become a Luxembourgish citizen must pass a language test, the Sproochentest, comprising a spoken and listening exam. A score of at least 50% on the spoken test is required to pass, although the result in the listening exam can be offset against it.

However, the command of Luxembourgish required to obtain citizenship is widely regarded as basic, with the spoken exam classified as ‘A2’, the second most elementary level under a common European framework.

Candidates must demonstrate the “ability to introduce oneself and use simple language” to talk about subjects such as family and work, according to the section on citizenship requirements on the Luxembourg government website.

The public petition, which was filed earlier this month and which opened for signatures on Friday, calls for the government to allow prospective candidates to obtain citizenship through a French or German language test instead.

“Speaking one of these languages, it is possible to live a normal life in Luxembourg. The current requirements for obtaining Luxembourgish nationality discriminate against those who speak French or German,” the petition reads. “The fact that someone speaks one of the three official languages should be sufficient in obtaining Luxembourgish nationality.”

“Why not include a test in French or German in this process in order to increase the number of people who can apply?,” the petition asks.

Parliament is required to discuss any petition that gathers at least 4,500 signatures within a period of 42 days, and some have made it into law.

In 2016, a petition calling for Luxembourgish to become the first official language in the country's Constitution received a record breaking 14,500 signatures, meeting the minimum 4,500 threshold within days. However, the issue did not progress in Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies.  

Last year some 11,450 people applied for Luxembourgish citizenship, with the majority French, Belgian, and Brazilian.

More than a third of all job adverts posted by the country’s unemployment agency require applicants to speak Luxembourgish, Labour Minister Dan Kersch said on Wednesday, although French is also often required.

A study carried out in 2019 by Luxembourg’s official statistics agency, Statec, showed that Luxembourgish is the most common language spoken at home in the country but that French is the dominant language at work.

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