Swiss are top in Europe for language

Switzerland leads the way in Europe when it comes to multilingualism. But Switzerland's national languages are under pressure from English.

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Foreign languages continue to play an important part in working life in Switzerland. But the Language Rich Europe study found that English was not taking the place of the national languages, except in certain industrial sectors and regions. Many small businesses in all parts of the country however remained monolingual. The study, carried out by the British Council and the Babylon Centre of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, examined use of language in education, the media, public services and businesses in 24 European countries and regions, including the cantons of Ticino, Geneva and Zurich.

Swiss children begin learning foreign languages relatively late. Whereas in 12 of the countries examined languages are taught from the first year of primary school, in seven - including Switzerland - language learning does not begin until the middle of primary school.

English before Italian

The study found that in obligatory language teaching it was the smaller Swiss national languages that were neglected in favour of English, which is seen as being economically important. Romansh and Italian featured little or very little in schools and public life, except in their own language areas.

The least recognised or promoted languages in all of Europe were those of immigrants, although these languages featured very strongly in public life. In Switzerland integration and language promotion depended largely on the region, the study found. The Language Rich Europe study aims to promote dialogue on language policy and practice and to foster social integration. The institute for multilingualism at Fribourg University was involved in collecting the data from Switzerland. (sda)

Erstellt: 23.05.2012, 11:27 Uhr

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