Luxembourgish teacher Liz Wenger, pictured, currently lives in Toronto, Canada
Photo: Gaël Lesure/archive
Learning Luxembourgish can land one in all sorts of trouble as pronunciation subtleties can mean the difference between clear communication and major misunderstandings. Luxembourgish teacher Liz Wenger shares her favourite common mistakes in Luxembourgish.
A Luxembourg native now living in Canada, Liz Wenger has been teaching Luxembourgish for over six years. As a teacher, she is always supportive of learners but even she is not immune to finding humour in the odd mistake, like mispronouncing the “ch” as a hard “k” in words.
“The Luxembourgish verb ‘maachen’ (to do) is mispronounced as “Macken” meaning quirks, or tics”, she explained. “Kachen”, meaning to cook, is even worse--with a hard “k”, it means to defecate in Luxembourgish!
There is plenty more fodder to make native Luxembourg speakers scratch their heads and chuckle. “Thinking that the plural for ‘Hond’ (dog) is ‘Hënner’ (buttocks)” is one that stands out in Wenger’s memory. As does “hie keeft” (he buys), “mispronounced as ‘hie kifft’ (he smokes weed)”, the teacher said.
Profanities and other misunderstandings
It is not just the teachers who get a laugh out of the language--certain Luxembourgish words can occasionally sound like profanities in English. “The unfortunate pronunciation of ‘Kand’ (child)” often elicits titters from learners, Wenger explained, while the teacher has “observed a general hesitation by English speakers to respond with ‘gär geschitt’ (you’re welcome)”.
And the misunderstandings work both ways. A mother-of-two, Wenger’s children like to mix English and Luxembourgish into their daily speech. “My two-year old daughter was playing with her pretend kitchen and she said in her mixed English-Luxembourgish ‘I spillen with milk’ and I kept telling her that no, she didn’t spill the milk, until I clued in to the fact that she meant ‘I'm playing with my pretend-milk’ (spillen means to play),” Wenger recalled.
Her son, too, used to get in trouble in Canada. “He would point and shout ‘bugger’ really loudly as we’re walking outside. ‘Bagger’ is a digger, and as there’s a lot of construction here in Toronto, he’d say it a lot!” Wenger said.