Interview: Luxembourg author Liz Wenger, now resident in Toronto, has launched Learn Luxembourgish, a new book aimed at Anglophones wanting to pick up the local language. She explains her motivation and how the book fills a gap in the market.
When Liz Wenger met her future husband, a Canadian, she says he immediately wanted to learn Luxembourgish. “He realised he couldn’t speak to half of my family, and he felt strange not knowing what people around him were saying,” she explains.
Wenger thought she could easily teach him the language by using one of the French or German based textbooks available on the market, but soon ran into a difficulty. “I couldn’t answer any of his questions about grammar, because I never learned my own language at school.”
The information available was mostly in the form of course books, but they weren’t really suitable for learning at home. Private language schools were prohibitively priced for the young couple, and at the time publicly funded classes just weren’t available or didn’t suit their schedules.
Liz becoming pregnant was an “additional motivation” for her husband to learn the language and, being a proactive type, Wenger enrolled for a one-year course to become a certified Luxembourgish teacher at the Institut National des Langues. The couple also had plenty of English-speaking friends who expressed an interest in gaining some knowledge of the local language. “I realized a lot of people wanted to learn Luxembourgish but didn’t have the means.”
Ironically, it was right around that time that the couple decided to leave Luxembourg to move to Toronto for professional reasons. “But I’m stubborn, so I stuck with it,” she says with a broad smile. The book took around 18 months to write and was based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
“It is a proven method and very practical, asking what a beginner in a foreign country needs immediately.”
Wenger is not only helping non-Luxembourgers to learn the language, she is also trying to encourage locals to give those learning Luxembourgish a chance. To this end she has launched a series of t-shirts and other accessories bearing the slogan “Schwätzt Lëtzebuergesch mat mir, Ech léieren!”--“Speak Luxembourgish with me, I’m learning!”