Localising for Luxembourg: Leveraging the power of multilingualism

Luxembourg: An introduction

Nestled between Germany, France and Belgium, Luxembourg is inherently multicultural and, consequently, multilingual. With a population just shy of 650,000 inhabitants, the linguistic landscape is even more impressive: most Luxembourgers speak four languages and both official and unofficial communication often takes place in Luxembourgish, German, or French.

English and Portuguese are popular too, with the Portuguese community making up 15% of the country’s total number of inhabitants. Luxembourg might be small, but it’s a financial and economic powerhouse situated in the heart of Europe. A wide range of international companies operate from the country due to its political stability and direct and easy access to other European cities.

Both the Directorate-General for Translation and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the EU are based in Luxembourg, further highlighting its multilingualism and focus on making materials available in an extensive array of different languages.

It’s clear that localising for Luxembourg is somewhat complex and widely dependent on context. Culturally nuanced translation and localisation is therefore incredibly important to appeal to the various target audiences.


Small but powerful

It can be easy for businesses to overlook Luxembourg in the localisation process for the European market and just assume that either the English original or a French or German translation will do the job.  However, this is often not the case and a more distinct approach that takes into consideration the linguistic and cultural background of the target audience in question should be used.

As a Luxembourger, when questioned about where I’m from, I’m often faced with confusion and asked if Luxembourg isn’t “just” a city in Germany. While this might sound amusing at first, it’s important not to underestimate the country’s global influence and economic power.

In fact, the purchasing power per capita is one of the highest in Europe and 2.3 times higher than the European average. The country not only boasts a strong banking and financial industry, but has a rich history of steel and iron manufacturing. Did you know that ArcelorMittal, the second largest steel producer in the world, has been headquartered in Luxembourg City since the foundation of the company in 2006?


Understanding the education system and the power of Luxembourgish

While a large part of the Luxembourgish population speaks English, it’s important to note that students don’t usually start learning English until the age of 13 or 14 (depending on the pathway chosen and the type of secondary school attended) as the focus primarily lies on developing fluency in German and French in their earlier years.

Consequently, skills in these languages are often more advanced and, as they are used in everyday communications, confidence is usually higher when it comes to speaking them. English is learnt at school, but there tends to be a lack of opportunity to practise and apply these skills in real life.

Luxembourgish is often used in day-to-day conversations, at work, and at home. While they might be fluent in at least three languages, Luxembourgers often feel most confident speaking in their native tongue. Even though the curriculum is taught through the medium of German and/or French, conversations in and outside of the classroom often take place in Luxembourgish. Luxembourgish is a West Germanic language and has assimilated a significant number of French words. It’s spoken by around 400,000 people worldwide.

When localising for the German-speaking European market, you should consider the particular situation of Luxembourg and Luxembourgish. While the majority of Luxembourg natives speak German fluently, localising content into Luxembourgish (especially alongside German and French) can offer brands a competitive edge and make them stand out.

By working together with professional native Luxembourgish translators that know the requirements of the market in and out, brands can ensure their message reaches the intended audience and resonates with (potential) customers.


Everyday communication and diversity

Efficient localisation for Luxembourg is dependent on a careful examination of the source materials and the target audience. If you are advertising for a financial product, such as a mobile banking app, for example, it’s essential to provide translations in a range of languages such as Luxembourgish, German, French, English, and even Portuguese.

Given the diverse population and the citizens’ vibrant cultural roots, catering to the needs of all these groups will help expand your customer base and make sure your product is accessible to a diverse range of people. Providing customers with the ability to navigate the product in a language they feel most confident with or to read content in their preferred language can foster a sense of trust and build relationships as well as loyalty.

Keep in mind that everyday communication in Luxembourg can look different depending on the context. In the hospitality sector, French is prevalent due to the high number of cross-border commuters from France and Belgium. Additionally, as many international firms have their headquarters or offices in Luxembourg, English is frequently used in the tech, legal, and financial industries.

The three administrative languages are Luxembourgish, German, and French. In print media, German and French are popular, but there are also a range of news outlets producing content in other languages such as Luxembourgish, English or Portuguese. Radio stations and TV channels often operate in Luxembourgish and there is an ever-growing range of cultural output available through literature and film productions. Did you know the popular crime drama series Capitani (available to watch on Netflix) was created and filmed in Luxembourg with Luxembourgish as the original language?


Carefully crafted and culturally nuanced translations

Localising for Luxembourg is a complex matter and should be handled accordingly. Understanding the needs of prospects and existing customers in Luxembourg can be difficult due to the sheer number of languages in use, the diversity of the population, and the variety of businesses and industries based there.

If you’re looking for a localisation partner that works with experienced native translators to make sure your message successfully flourishes in the Luxembourgish market, get in touch today. We are able to target your message towards the relevant audience(s) and can advise you on best practices, as well as help you to develop and plan a goal-driven localisation strategy.