Saturday, August 14, 2021

Here's one advantage the people of Luxembourg have over Americans

There is an old joke that goes something like this: If you speak three languages, you're trilingual. If you speak two languages, you're bilingual. If you speak one language, you're American.

To be fair, there are obviously a whole lot of non-Americans in the world who only speak one language. But compared to our friends in say, Europe, we here in the U.S. of A tend to be a little lacking in terms of our linguistic diversity.

I have become more acutely aware of this fact in recent weeks as I've conducted meet-and-greet meetings with my new colleagues at Goodyear. We have a very substantial operation in Luxembourg, and virtually every person to whom I speak from there could be classified as quadrilingual (if that's a word). They all seem to know French, German, Luxembourgish and English.

And not only do they speak those four languages, they speak them pretty well. A good number of them also speak Italian or Dutch...and, interestingly, Portuguese (as a full 18% of Luxembourg's inhabitants are of Portuguese descent).

Luxembourg is a really small country, so it's heavily influenced by its geographic neighbors. What's more, the population literally rises by one-third every day when thousands of Belgians, French, and Germans drive into the country to work there. It then goes back to normal levels when they all leave around 5pm.

Isn't that cool?

I asked Alex, a Goodyear communications manager in Luxembourg, how you know which language to speak when you walk into a store in Luxembourg. He said a lot of the time you just know, but when you're not sure, you just look at the signs and listen to the people around you, and you immediately slip into the appropriate tongue.

That's also very cool, at least to me.

You may not have known that "Luxembourgish" is a language, but it is. Alex tells me it's really just a mix of French and German, but you can't ever say that to the native speakers, who will be offended.

Good to know for when I finally make it over there. I can't wait.

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