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How important is English to Switzerland? Is it a threat to the Swiss national identity? Should it become an official language? Should it be taught in schools as the second language—above German or French? These questions and their implications affect equally—though often in different ways—both the Swiss national and expat communities. To consider those implications, WRS’s Conor Lennon brings to the discussion table:
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dear sir your debate about the use of english as a second language in switzerland, i am all for keeping with the cultural idenity of a country, its out of respect you attempt to do this, alas i speak french after being here in geneva for 3 years, i have done 50 % voluntary work in geneva,for 3 yrs, so you would call me well intergrated, well i do not know one swiss person to visit or have a beer with, the swiss are the most unwelcomming people i have ever met, is it little wonder the ex-pats stick with each other. I still go to local bars in the vain hope of speaking to a swiss person.
Just listened to your debate.One very important group of people you forgot to include,were the Swiss people.Why do they prefer to speak English rather than the other Swiss national languages? Not just for flirting or buying things but for business on a daily basis. I have been living in Switzerland for many years,I teach English to large companies,so have gained an insight into how important it is for English to be used on a daily basis in Switzerland. Many large companies such as Swisscom prefer to use English during their national meetings.I have experienced Swiss company employees speaking to one another in English.(Some employees came from the Swiss German part,while others come from the French part) So in actual fact,English will unify the country, not divide it.
I have quite the opposite experience. I’ve made many friends at my hiking club, ski club and photography club. I find the Swiss extremely warm and welcoming. Switzerland offers tons of activities where you can easily make new friends. I live in a small building (6 apartments) and throw a scrabble party once a month. Almost all of my neighbors come to enjoy a night of fun and game.
Remember that if the children are being put into local schools to learn the language of the country where their parent/s maybe relocated for work, it is one thing the children getting the language, but not always is it possible for the adults to get the language (especially if the parents didn’t have the same benefits as their children!!) There will likely always be a generation of global orientated working parents and yes it will create multi lingual children… so it is a fact of life, language will always remain language, but I think it important to remember the crucial element of “communication” the world is global and English for the moment is a fairly common bond that should be encouraged positively everywhere !