Switzerland: Multilingualism should be encouraged, says study

Switzerland: Multilingualism should be encouraged, says study

Swiss politicians fail to recognise the value of multilingualism when the languages spoken are not the national tongues or English.

That is one of the key findings of a National Science Foundation study looking at political debates on language issues over the past five decades.


“For example, languages such as Chinese and Arabic are more highly appreciated [than they are in Switzerland]. They are seen as economic assets, whereas in Switzerland that’s only the case with English,” Späti explained.

Skenderovic says pressure on immigrants to learn a national language shortly after they arrive in the country - without recognition of the importance of their own language - shows that many politicians do not want to stop at integration, but want to see foreigners completely assimilated.

However, Simone Prodolliet, director of the Federal Commission for Migration Issues, says the reality on the ground often differs greatly from the public debate.

Prodolliet told swissinfo.ch that a lot of pilot projects have been initiated across the country to encourage children to learn the local language as well as the one spoken by their parents.

“The importance for schoolchildren to retain their mother tongue has been recognised. The command of that language is a precondition for learning other languages well,” she says.


“Teachers are making efforts to acknowledge children’s mother tongues but that doesn’t mean lessons are taught in Turkish, for example.”

Prodolliet admits that barely a word is spoken in favour of non-national languages at the political level, and agrees that fluency in these languages should be recognised as an additional qualification.

At the very least, the National Science Foundation study makes a case for broadening the language debate.

“In Switzerland a lot more people speak Croatian or Serbian than Romansh. Would it be a threat to Romansh if we gave more rights to migration languages, or would it perhaps have a positive effect if we generally agree that Switzerland is a multilingual country and give rights to minority languages?” asks Späti.


Source: SwissInfo (English)

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