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Abstract - LUXEMBOURG: A complex situation

The Situation of Sign Languages in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg

The Verein der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen Luxembourg a.s.b.l. (Luxembourgish Deaf Association) would like to report on the situation of sign languages in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. The situation is related to the education, culture and policy.


In Luxembourg there is only one school for the Deaf, the Centre de Logopédie. Given the particular geographic situation of Luxembourg, hearing children receive intensive language teaching during their education. We will outline this in the next section and contrast the situation for Deaf Luxembourgers.

Learning Languages in State Schools

Luxembourgish children learn Luxembourgish as their native language. At primary school German is taught as the first foreign language from the first year onwards. From the second school year onwards, French and German are taught in parallel. At secondary school, additional languages like English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Latin or Greek are taught. The official Languages of Luxembourg are Luxembourgish, German and French.

Language Learning at the School for the Deaf

Deaf pupils are taught German as their primary language from the first school year French is an option that can be taken from the second school year on, but the teaching French is limited. The consequence is that Deaf students apply only German as the principal language and are not able to apply French for communication, despite the fact that French is more widely spoken in the environment. Because most teachers working at the Centre de Logopédie have studied Deaf Education at German universities, a strong oral approach is applied, as opposed to a sign language-based approach.

Introduction of Sign Language in Education

Until the 1980's, only the oral approach was applied. Sign language was introduced incrementally, especially for Deaf pupils with learning difficulties. Deaf students who do not have a learning difficulty are expected to participate in an oral education.

Conclusions about Sign Languages in Education In Luxembourg

Sign language is only permitted for use with Deaf persons who have learning difficulties. Deaf people who do not have an intellectual disability continue to learn the spoken language. Moreover there exists a certain number of deaf and hard of hearing pupils who are educated beyond the Centre de Logopédie, at mainstream schools. These pupils are usually not familiar with sign languages.

Sign Language Courses

There exists an increasing number of persons who are not deaf, but who are interested in learning sign languages hoping to communicate with Deaf people in leisure activities, in education and at work places. Unfortunately there are no sign language courses running at present in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. However, sign languages courses are offered in neighbouring regions of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.
For the moment Luxembourgers attend sign languages courses in the German city, Trier. This is because the distance Luxembourg and Trier is not great.
German Sign Language and "Sign-supported German" are offered in an evening course programme. Moreover certain Luxembourgers are interested in taking courses in French and Wallonian Sign Languages, but they have difficulty in finding appropriate sign language courses in French regions like Lorraine and in Belgian regions like the province of Luxembourg.

Sign Language and Culture

The Verein der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen Luxembourg has participated twice in the Language Festival where students of all schools of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg participate. At this festival, we aim to demonstrate sign languages in use, use of finger spelling, exhibiting sign language based multi-media like CD-ROMs and videos, and sign language sketches for the rally. The response from the students participating in this festival is very positive.

Policy for Handicapped Persons

In 1995, in the course of reorganising the Luxembourgish Government, the Minister for Families, Marie-Josée JACOBS was nominated as Minister for Affairs of Handicapped Persons. An independent Ministry for the Affairs of Handicapped Persons does not exist, but the Ministry of the Family is charged with this responsibility. A policy for Handicapped Persons was introduced and led to the first national colloquium about policy for Handicapped Persons (1997) where the Verein der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen was invited to take part in influencing the policy process. As a result, an action programme was developed. However, sign languages are not mentioned in the action programme.

Legislation and the Constitution

In Luxembourg there is no legislation that refers to the use of sign language and no fundamental right regarding use of a sign language in the Luxembourgish constitution. However, reform of the Luxembourgish constitution is not yet complete.

Mention of Sign Languages at Ministerial and Parliamentary Level

At the political level, the issue of sign languages has been raised. Recently the Minister of Affairs of Handicapped Persons mentioned that the use of sign languages is necessary. Moreover we recently heard a parliamentary question that was concerned with the provision of sign language interpreters in museums to guide Deaf people.


The situation in education, culture and policy shows that there is still a long way to go before sign languages are used and recognised widely in Luxembourg. As the smallest country of the European Union, Luxembourg is dependent on approaches that have their origin in larger EU countries. It is rather more practical for Luxembourg to participate in sign language projects that have a regional focus: For Luxembourg it means the possibility of participating in projects in the region composed of Luxembourg, Lorraine (France), Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland (both Germany) and the province of Luxembourg (Belgium).