Monday, July 1, 2013
Living in a Multi-Cultural World...
I have been taking French classes at the Institute National des Langues for about a year and a half now. There are a ton of language school options in Luxembourg, from Prolingua, Berlitz, AWCL group classes to private tutors - all of which have their pros and cons. I have tried several, but have found the INL to be the most affordable, flexible and comprehensive option. Though the website and registration process can be a bit frustrating and intimidating (the website is in French and does not always cooperate with Google translate), once you get through the initial registration process, signing up for classes becomes pretty routine. The school offers classes is French, Luxembourgish, Portugese, German, Spanish, English, Dutch, and more. You can also choose how many classes per week you wish to take, as well as classes that concentrate on just one discipline of a language - speaking, writing, etc.
It is in these classes that I realize just how diverse life is here. I am usually one of maybe 2 or 3 Americans in my class of 20 or so students, and each semester the class has had a different mix of nationalities. My first class was comprised mostly of Eastern Europeans who were seeking asylum in Luxembourg. Many were quite poor, had escaped poor or war stricken countries, and were desperately trying to learn one of the local languages in hopes of finding a job. Last semester, I had quite a few younger classmates who had moved here with their significant other or spouse and wanted to be able to communicate better in the community. Most of them were from Western Europe - Spain, Portugal, Italy, The Netherlands - and picked up French so quickly. I would just sit back in wonder at how these young kids could learn a new language in just a matter of weeks. Several of them were young au pairs who are given language class allowances as part of their compensation. This last semester, most of my classmates were young professionals looking to communicate more effectively in their jobs. Again, most were Western Europeans, but many of them worked in law, finance, or international business, hoping to be able to communicate at a higher level with their French or Luxembourgish co-workers. Each class has had a different flair to it, and each one provided me the opportunity to make friends with people of all ages, all backgrounds, and all walks of life. In my, well, 40+ years I have never had such an incredible experience!
Seems life can be very 2-dimensional when you spend your days surrounded only by people who look and sound like you. Don't get me wrong - I love the South and am often homesick for the slow drawl of a native Texan, or the sing-songy sounds of a southern belle - but I have quickly learned to appreciate the lovely sound of the amazing mix of accents that Luxembourg can provide. Just standing in Place d'Armes or at a cafe in the Grund, you can experience such a dizzying array of sounds and cultures! You just have to slow your pace a bit and take the time to truly absorb the experience!
The boys and I are back in Texas for a couple of weeks - a kick off for our summer break. It didn't take long for us to dive head first back into the Southern way of life - great Texas BBQ, cooling off at the neighborhood pool, and purchasing tickets for the next Astros game (yes, we need a baseball fix.) I honestly try to control any hints of a southern accent while I am in Lux, mostly because I endured 3 years of teasing while I lived in Chicago. The boys were quick to point out the change at dinner when the first "ya'll" popped out of my mouth. What can I say? There's no place like "home" ;-)