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New book describes German as Luxembourg speaks it

New book describes German as Luxembourg speaks it

by Emery P. DALESIO 2 min. 01.06.2022 From our online archive
Luxembourg professor develops text on how one of its official languages evolved here
University of Luxembourg professor Heinz Sieburg sits in a library at the school's Belval campus
University of Luxembourg professor Heinz Sieburg sits in a library at the school's Belval campus
Photo credit: Birgit Reichert/dpa

Multilingual Luxembourg is about to achieve recognition as a corner of the German-speaking world where the language has evolved in its own orbit.

University of Luxembourg professor Heinz Sieburg has compiled what his publisher calls the first dictionary that comprehensively captures how the German language has evolved in the Grand Duchy.

“Just like in Austria and Switzerland, the German language in Luxembourg has developed certain peculiarities in the vocabulary,” Sieburg told Luxembourg Times - whose book does not concern itself with Luxembourgish, a commonly spoken language in the Grand Duchy that is closely related to German.

Variations include words describing a cycle track, bridge, collective agreement, index tranche, animal asylum that are unused in Germany, as well as words that have a slightly different meaning in Luxembourg’s larger neighbour like rendez-vous, autonomy, programming, said Sieburg, who is part of the university’s institute for German language, literature and culture.

His dictionary, due to be published in mid-October, is the first to focus on how German is used now in the Grand Duchy, rather than being included with other language publications in which German is described as used in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Südtirol and Belgium and Luxembourg, said Nicole Weiffen, a spokeswoman for the Duden publishing house.

The existing reference work also is “older and does not take up the latest developments in contemporary language,” she said.

Pupils in Luxembourg’s schools use German as their primary language of instruction in primary school before switching to French as the main language halfway through secondary school. Luxembourgish, one of the country’s three official language, is little used in classrooms beyond preschool.

But a study published in April by the University of Luxembourg and the Education Ministry found that school children, especially from families where French or Portuguese are the common language, were increasingly having trouble with reading and understanding German.

The findings echo a 2018 national education report, which found that while students’ abilities in German improved as they advanced through the school years, it sometimes hindered development of mathematics skills.

One of the main challenges that schools in the Grand Duchy face is the increasing number of pupils whose native language is not Luxembourgish or German, and whose reading and mathematics skills suffer as a result, a report by the European Commission said last month.

Luxembourg has long explained its low performance in the global assessment of education systems, the Pisa study, as stemming from the learning challenges facing students from instruction in multiple languages.

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