English as lingua franca in Switzerland / Englisch in der Schweiz

swissinfo says:

bq. L’anglais a de bonnes chances de devenir LA langue de compréhension dans ce pays multilingue qu’est la Suisse, selon Urs Dürmüller, linguiste du séminaire d’anglais de l’Université de Berne.

(See also Dürmüller – also in French – via kalebeul).

Here is something in English:

bq. The English language is very widespread in Switzerland. After their mother tongue, the Swiss speak English best, since it is used as a link and the language of communication in this multilingual country of germanophones (65%), francophones (20%), italophones (7.5%) and Romansh (0.5%). The Swiss English-language skills shown in the following table indicate that two out of three German-speaking Swiss and one out of two French-speaking Swiss speak English.

This was also the topic of the arte programme Zwischensprach last week (note the film company’s name Dschoint Ventschr).

Zurich is experimenting with English as the first foreign language. Among those who opined on this was Professor Richard J. Watts, who has edited a book on the topic, and Remigi Winzap (great name), a Swiss diplomat in Brussels whose first language was Romansh.

Official languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Romansh. But the German is really almost two languages, because the spoken and written language diverge.

Some seemed to believe that the English spoken in Swiss companies where English is the company language was not too good. The logical leap from this to discouraging learning English at school was too big for me. Then again, there was disagreement as to whether French is harder to learn than English. It probably is harder for German speakers IMNSHO. Anyway, people had very strong opinions.

2 thoughts on “English as lingua franca in Switzerland / Englisch in der Schweiz

  1. Interesting piece: I wasn’t aware of the potential for English to become a lingua franca in Switzerland. I’ll now be interested in following what happens there in the years to come.

    As for which language would be easier for certain speakers to learn, we’re back to that old chestnut again. I seriously think that comparative ease or difficulty in L2 learning has nothing at all to do with the structure of the L2 language(s), but rather that it is entirely about social and psychological issues – learners’ self-esteem, their previous L2 learning experiences, their intended future usage of the L2 and how useful they think it’ll be, their attitudes to the target language culture (possibly the most relevant in this case), and so on. If people are unmotivated, they’re not even going to be interested in getting simple cognates right, so I don’t think it even matters whether or not there is some similar lexis for learners to identify with in the early stages. In my opinion, L2 learning is all about the people learning it, and not so much about the actual language(s) being learnt!

  2. Lingua franca: there were a number of examples of Swiss people whose first language is German or French or Italian communicating in English.
    The argument for doing English first was partly the motivation of the pupils. It was an odd counter-argument to me to say on the one hand ‘they’ll pick it up anyway’ and on the other ‘they make lots of mistakes’. I had more sympathy with the man who said, ‘We should recognize two first languages, German and French, and English could be the first foreign language’. But that’s probably not practicable either.

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