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Old 18.12.2020, 23:29
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Re: How does Switzerland manage four national languages?

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1 But how about the Swiss Army? How can its chain of command work reliably when officers at different levels may not share a language they speak fluently enough?
2 How do federal government officers from different language regions communicate with each other and maintain written documentation?
3 How would an average middle-aged Romandie person speak with an average middle-aged person from say Thurgau? E.g. in a domestic tourism situation.
4 Any other situations you can think of where the language barrier can be a problem for the country's unity and functioning?

1. They speak german, then they say "for the romands the same thing" in french. More seriously, there might be someone helping and translating a bit if it's really impossible for some to understand AFAIK.

2. They have a rule: you have a right to speak your language, and you have the obligation of understanding the others that do. In practice, this translates to people speaking french or german and the others having to deal with it. The 2 other minorities are very likely to have been at least in university in either french or german anyway. Lots of documentation gets translated, especially everything that gets released to the public. In practice, German is the majority language and thus has some prevalence. Most stuff for the public gets translated to italian but many federal publications are only in german and french. Rumantsch is not on the same level as the other languages.
The federal councillors have to learn the 3 main languages.

3. This is not that important to the functioning of a country. Your day-to-day life is mostly in your canton or region with full services in all of its languages, most swiss people have a monolingual daily life. So you just find a shared language in these situations, just like you do across european borders. French for older people, English for younger ones.

4. A strongly decentralized structure helps.

Basically, multilingualism across geographic distances works well with federalism, and you have to drop the presumption that the dominant group does not need to learn the regional language if they move to a minority region of their country.
Representation and local power is much more important if there isn't a shared language, as it can make people feel really unrepresented otherwise.

Also, Switzerland has no issue of national identity relating to language because there was never a swiss language or ethnicity in the first place, the country did not unite on the basis of language.
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