Promoting language learning in a multilingual country
The linguistic situation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is not easy for newcomers. The country has three national languages—Luxembourgish, French and German. To access employment, most newcomers must speak French. To interact with the local population, Luxembourgish is an asset. And to read daily newspapers, one needs to read German and French. At school, pupils learn all three languages from an early age.
Many migrants take language courses. However, it is still difficult to practice the languages in daily life. In order to overcome the lack of opportunities to practice language skills and to engage socially with locals, the municipality of Colmar-Berg launched the Language Café initiative to provide a friendly evening gathering between Luxembourgish and non-Luxembourgish residents that also allows for language practice.
Areas of integration covered by practice
- Integration of migrants in political and civic local life
- Language learning
Background and purpose
Integration begins with communication and language skills. Language courses are essential but not sufficient to encourage people to speak foreign languages on a daily basis.
The Language Café makes it possible to break down invisible barriers and to practice languages in a fun and friendly setting.
The municipality of Colmar-Berg held its first Language Café in June 2018. Two neighbouring municipalities have also joined the project. The location of the Language Café now alternates among municipalities. Communication on the events is organised jointly by the municipalities, and the information leaflets are distributed in the participating municipalities.
There are plans to create a shared annual agenda for eight municipalities in 2020 and to organise joint communications for a regional language café. The plan is to hold the Language Café once per month, in a different municipality each time.
How does it work?
At each Language Café, there are different tables—one for each language—and each table has a moderator who supervises conversations throughout the duration of the Café. Generally, there are tables to practise Luxembourgish, French, German, English, Spanish and Italian. Participants register to practise the language of their choice. In order to organise a table for a particular language, the organisers must have at least five requests to practise that language.
The organisers prepare topic(s) to be discussed at the tables in advance. The topics are identical for all tables. Each moderator receives a question sheet to initiate discussion at the table and help keep discussion going. The event lasts about two hours with a coffee break. Free childcare, provided by an authorised caretaker, is available. This allows both parents to participate (thus, providing equal opportunities for mothers and fathers).
Organisers/Partners: The House of Associations, the Municipality of Colmar-Berg and the Committee on Integration and the Equal Opportunities Commission of Colmar-Berg, the Municipality of Bissen, the Bissen Committee on Integration
Support: The Ministry for Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region
Results and evaluation
A qualitative and quantitative assessment is made by the House of Associations after each Language Café. The quantitative results are broken down by gender, age and nationality.
The Café is funded by the Ministry for Family Affairs, which is responsible for integration. The municipality organising the Café is responsible for the costs of food and drink during the evening (charged to the annual budget allocated to the committee on integration).
The event is announced on the participating municipalities’ websites, but there is currently no dedicated website.
Source: Committee of the Regions