Stressed out because the Sproochentest is the first exam you’ve taken in a decade, but you can’t get a Luxembourgish passport without it? Got top marks for every quiz in your course, but still failed your Luxembourgish language test due to crippling nerves?
You’re in good company. 2,242 people registered for the Sproochentest in 2018/19 and the numbers are growing each year.
But the pass rate of the Luxembourgish language test is plummeting year on year. And no wonder. Stressful test + pressure to gain citizenship = brain freeze.
Even people with a good level of Luxembourgish can still fail the Sproochentest, due to nerves or lack of practice.
What you need is real, targeted advice on how to prepare for a pass mark. Not only did I earn my Luxembourgish language certificate in 2018, but I also coached my husband through the process and he passed first time! This is what I learnt.
1. Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into
If you only prepared for a Q and A session but are unexpectedly asked to describe a picture, you might panic and dry up. Do your nerves a favour and find out exactly what to expect in advance, and dodge any nasty surprises on the day.
Most people who want to become a citizen must take the Luxembourgish language test, also known as the Sproochentest.
It’s made up of two parts:
Oral Test (Mëndlechen Ausdrock)
You need a level of A2 in Luxembourgish to pass. It’s a 10-minute test where you speak one-on-one with an examiner. You are expected to do the following:
- Answer questions on a topic for five minutes
- Describe a picture for five minutes
Understanding Test (Héierverstoen)
You need a level of B1 in Luxembourgish to pass. It’s a 25-minute test where you listen to three audio snippets and answer multiple choice questions on a sheet. The audio pieces are the following:
- A radio news item
- An everyday conversation with two people
- A discussion or presentation on a topic
Some people don’t need the Luxembourgish test to receive nationality. If you’ve lived in Luxembourg for more than 20 years for example, you only need to take 24 hours of Luxembourgish lessons. Check the Luxembourgish nationality section on Guichet to find out what type of application your qualify for.
2. Get the Right Help
Even if you’re determined to self-study, make sure to book a few sessions with a tutor or take a few Luxembourgish classes. Your accent and pronunciation will benefit — you’re not expected to speak like a native, but the examiner must be able to understand you.
But some help is more equal than others. If you want to pass, you need targeted sessions that are tracked against the A2 and B1 level requirements.
The INL has the most popular Luxembourgish classes, and not just because they’re cheap. The INL language teachers are actually the examiners for the test! So they have proven expertise of the Sproochentest and the level required.
If you don’t have time for classes, or you need flexibility, Skype courses are a good option. Or get a recommendation for a one-on-one tutor who can work around your busy schedule.
Whatever option you pick, make sure your teacher can get you that pass mark by asking them the following questions:
- Have you ever prepared students for the Sproochentest?
- What’s the pass rate of your students?
3. Get the Schwätzt Dir Lëtzebuergesch? books
Of all the resources I used for the Sproochentest, I found the Schwätzt Dir Lëtzebuergesch? books the best by a mile. They cover all exam topics and are tracked to A1 and A2 level.
You might be taken aback by the tongue-in-cheek humour in many of the conversations and situations — we’ve come a long way from dry sentences about how to get to the train station!
These books don’t just contain vocabulary and topics necessary for the exam, but also give you audio recordings playable from a website. If you listen to these conversations and read the transcripts, you’ll improve your Luxembourgish comprehension and accent in no time.
4. Write and Record a Q&A
Remember the oral test? Your examiner asks you to pick a topic from a choice of two and then quizzes you on that topic for five minutes.
You’d be forgiven for dreading this stage. Not only is it like an interview — the stress equivalent of getting on stage without knowing your lines — but it’s in a foreign language!
The only way to avoid drawing a blank is to learn some parts by heart. This isn’t about robotically repeating entire blocks of text, as this won’t impress the examiner. But having some answers memorised will give your brain something to grab onto when goes blank.
This will allow you to compose yourself and think about what to say next, instead of drying up and stopping mid-sentence. Think of muscle memory — you’ve practised a task so much that you can perform even under immense stress.
Write out at least five questions and answers for each topic in Luxembourgish. If you’re working with a tutor, ask them for help with the translation.
The topics are:
- Family and friends
- Eating and drinking
- My routine
- TV and film
- My home and neighbourhood
For example, if you pick hobbies, the questions could be:
- Do you have any hobbies?
- How often do you go swimming?
- Are you a member of a club?
Record yourself reading the questions and answers out loud. Or better yet, get a native to record them for you. Add breaks after every sentence, so you can repeat.
Then, listen to the recordings until you are driven to distraction! Save them on your phone and play them while commuting or out walking. Hit the pause button after each sentence and repeat until you’re blue in the face.
5. Learn Vocabulary for Directions, Colours, People and Places
During the second part of the oral test, you’re given three pictures to choose from. You then have to describe the photo for five minutes under your own steam — the examiner won’t ask any questions.
The secret of passing this section is to memorise specific vocabulary that will keep you talking for five minutes or more. So if or when you draw a blank, you’ll have a few tricks up your sleeve to pad out your description and keep the ball rolling!
You can use the Schwätzt Dir Lëtzebuergesch? books to collect vocabulary, or use the Luxembourgish flashcards on Quizlet to practice.
Here are a few examples the pictures on offer:
- A waiting room at an airport
- Crowds at a fairground
- A town high street with a street performer
- Four students and a teacher sitting around a computer
- A family cooking together in a kitchen
Where in the picture are the things you are describing? Start your sentences with On the top left, on the bottom, on the left-hand side, in the middle, in the background, and so on. These phrases will pad out your descriptions.
What colour hair do the people have? What colour clothes are they wearing? Use shades like light-red and dark-blue to introduce more variety.
Clothes, Fabric and Accessories
Are people wearing jeans, shorts, t-shirts or jumpers? Striped, polka dots or multicoloured fabrics? High-heels, boots or trainers? Watches, handbags or backpacks?
Are the people young or old? Tall or short? Fat or thin? Can you guess their ages? If there’s a family, you should point out the father, mother, daughter and so on.
A town square might have shops, a bandstand, cafe terraces and a street performer.
A kitchen scene might have plates, cutlery, bowls and pans.
Now that you’ve gathered the vocab, get test-ready by trawling the Internet for suitable pictures. Then, set a timer for 10 minutes — twice as long as the actual test — and practice describing each picture for as long as possible.
6. Listen to Luxembourgish Conversations and News
During the comprehension test, you’ll hear three snippets of audio and then answer multiple choice questions on each one.
You may think multiple choice is a cinch! But beware — they’ve gone to the trouble to make the choices ambiguous. The answers use different words to the audio and many test-takers struggle with the speed.
The best way to prepare is to listen to the Luxembourgish spoken word as much as possible. Start with easier language snippets, then build your way up to newscasts and interviews.
Aim to understand Luxembourgish at a higher level than B1, so that you can cancel out any pesky brain hiccups brought on by stress.
The Schwätzt Dir Lëtzebuergesch? books have a ton of audio recordings of conversations. Make sure you listen to them first and make a note of anything you don’t understand. Then, read the transcript at the end of the book.
Listen to news bulletins and interviews in Luxembourgish on the radio or podcasts. RTL.lu stores recordings of their programmes on their website and app.
7. Do This on the Day of the Comprehension Test:
DO double-check that you have your passport and letter with you, as you won’t be allowed to take the test without ID. You’re not allowed to bring your mobile phone or notes into the exam room — there’s a cloakroom outside. The examiners will give you a pen if you need one.
DO keep focused and don’t let your mind race. The audio recordings and the relevant questions are played twice. If you don’t recognise a word, don’t panic — just move on. When the audio is played for the second time, make notes on the questions. Cross out the questions that you know are incorrect and underline important words.
DO try to identify the answer that is definitely wrong if you aren’t sure about a multiple choice question. Then, you have a better chance of guessing the right answer from the remaining options!
8. Do this on the Day of the Oral Test
DO double-check that you have your passport with you. You can bring your notes into the waiting room, but you can’t refer to them during the test.
DO park at the Glacis if you are driving. The test is held in the INL building beside the Glacis parking area, so no problems getting a spot unless there’s an event on.
DO pick the topic that interests you the most if you don’t feel confident in either option! You’ll be more likely to wing it.
DO go for a picture that features as many people as possible. If you’ve learnt your colours and clothes, you’ll have more to talk about in a market scene than a family of four in a kitchen.
Wrapping It Up
Taking the Sproochentest can be a frightening proposition. Maybe you haven’t taken a test in a long time and you’re out of practice? Or maybe you’re a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on yourself? Maybe both!
Give yourself a break and help your nerves by following the tips in this article. The name of the game isn’t to memorise and parrot the answers. Instead, just give yourself the best chance of pushing through your nerves, by having responses at hand and practising as best as possible.