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Old 04.09.2006, 20:23
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Guideline: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Users of this system come from all over Switzerland, and in many cases are not actually living in Switzerland. Those that do live here may live in one of three different language regions and may or may not have skills in the local language.

For this reason it is necessary to formulate a policy about the use of foreign words in messages posted on this system. "Foreign" in this context means non-English words which are not in common use outside Switzerland (in other words, in English generally)

Why do we need such a policy?

Locating information: Recently we had a case of someone who was searching for information about customs duties, taxes, etc. He came from the French-speaking part of Switzerland but was unable to locate the message he needed - the subject line contained the German word for customs taxes - Zoll. While this might be clear to someone who has lived in the German part of Switzerland for a while, it isn't clear to everybody else.

Search engine indexing: Search engines look at the things we write and attempt to classify our text according to the language and the subject matter. Using non-English words and spellings ultimately hurts the value of the content, making it more difficult for people who have never heard of this site to find information which may lead them here.

Inclusion - everyone is welcome
: Using terms which are not universally understood by all our visitors excludes people. When it becomes widespread, visitors from one region may feel that the system is "not for them". It was never the goal of this system to encourage any particular group of people, or to appear as if there is a clique to outsiders. The only thing which should unite us is that English is used here, hopefully correctly. In this way, access is encouraged for all, even the Swiss who speak English.

What is the policy?

The policy is very easy to follow - simply put, avoid using a foreign word or spelling where possible. If it is necessary to write a foreign word use italics and provide a translation in brackets if it is not going to be universally understood. For example:

Quote:
Best: Check with your local commune about whether you are eligible
Better: Check with your local commune (Gemeinde) about whether you are eligible.
Good: Check with your local Gemeinde (commune) about whether you are eligible.
Bad: Check with your local Gemeinde about whether you are eligible.
Would the last example be understood by someone in the French-speaking part, a new arrival or someone outside of Switzerland? Probably not. Even if you know that the person to whom you are replying understands German, others will also read the exchange.

If you plan to use a word repeatedly it's acceptable to define it once at the start of a post so people may understand, but using the English words is more helpful to the search engines (see point above).

Some examples of the common words we often see in the forum and their English equivalents:

Commune/community not Gemeinde, canton not Kanton, foreigner not Ausländer, Zurich not Zuerich, police not Polizei, department/office not Amt, pension fund not Pensionskasse.

Sometimes you might need to use the name of a specific department. This is fine, just ask yourself if it will be universally understood - if not provide English translations. For example:

Quote:
You should contact the Migrationsamt (Department of Migration) in your canton to see if your Arbeitsbewilligung (work permit) has been approved. If so, you should be able to pick it up at your local Gemeinde (communal office) within a couple of weeks.
I don't like the policy, what will happen if I just ignore it?

At first you might get a polite hint, or a private message, you may be referred to this policy. Hopefully you will understand why this is a good idea and follow the policy. If you continue to ignore it this will irritate the staff around here and you might find yourself losing reputation points, having your posts edited, or another action a moderator may deem fit. So be nice, play by the rules

What about the use of English dialects?

Would it be understood by the majority of native English-speakers? If so, then no problem. If not, either provide an explanation or rephrase what you have to say. The exception could be a small joke or greeting to someone from the same area as you. An example of inappropriate use of dialect would be the use of Cockney rhyming slang, which might land you in the Frank Zappa.

As always the number-one rule on this system is: use common sense.
  #2  
Old 04.09.2006, 21:34
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

I agree with most things you have to say, but this policy I wholeheartedly disagree with.

Quote:
Quote:
Best: Check with your local commune about whether you are eligible
Better: Check with your local commune (Gemeinde) about whether you are eligible.
Good: Check with your local Gemeinde (commune) about whether you are eligible.
Bad: Check with your local Gemeinde about whether you are eligible.
What's a commune? My brand of english considers a commune to be a place where hippies live in free love and peace and filth.

You'll just have to penalize me if I don't bother with finding other words for things or don't italicize.
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Old 04.09.2006, 21:37
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
I agree with most things you have to say, but this policy I wholeheartedly disagree with.

You'll just have to penalize me if I don't bother with finding other words for things or don't italicize.
You mean you disagree with the whole thing, or just part of it - your first sentence wasn't exactly clear.

Just think of the people on the other side of the Röstigraben (potato ditch). See it wasn't that hard was it

If you can think of another solution to the problem then I'm all ears....
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Old 04.09.2006, 21:39
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
You mean you disagree with the whole thing, or just part of it - your first sentence wasn't exactly clear.

Just think of the people on the other side of the Röstigraben (potato ditch). See it wasn't that hard was it

If you can think of another solution to the problem then I'm all ears....
I agree with most things you say normally, however, on this topic I completely disagree with you.

If you put so many rules in place that people have to think about the rules and are translating terms and italicizing things and wondering is it British English, American English, Germglish, Fracoglais, etc. and italicizing, then people won't bother to post.
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Old 04.09.2006, 21:41
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Oops, you seem to have edited your post as I was replying. Commune is the word used by Swissinfo for Gemeinde, and also I believe in the English version of texts from the Federal Government. Community doesn't really work, and they are too small to be called counties, but if you want to use community that's fine by me. Community office would probably work instead of Gemeindehaus / Kreisburo. You can use anything as long as it's clear to someone who doesn't speak German - that's all.
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Old 04.09.2006, 21:43
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
Oops, you seem to have edited your post as I was replying. Commune is the word used by Swissinfo for Gemeinde, and also I believe in the English version of texts from the Federal Government. Community doesn't really work, and they are too small to be called counties, but if you want to use community that's fine by me. Community office would probably work instead of Gemeindehaus / Kreisburo. You can use anything as long as it's clear to someone who doesn't speak German - that's all.
Yes, it was stuck on my clipboard and I forgot to include it on the first post!

The British English version of the texts may call it a commune, but I'd call it city hall or district (depending on the usage). If I was not British English savvy, I'd wonder what was meant. You're excluding those who are not British English savvy by the use of commune over city hall (or district).
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Old 04.09.2006, 21:45
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
If you put so many rules in place that people have to think about the rules and are translating terms and italicizing things and wondering is it British English, American English, Germglish, Fracoglais, etc. and italicizing, then people won't bother to post.
Nobody is asking you to think about the dialect etc, just not to post in German! This is called englishforum after all, and we seem to be dominating it with German terms. You'll notice I gave people a lot of choice as to how they want to do it. Simply use English terms where possible if you don't want to write both! It's not too difficult to try and think of an English word whenever you post.

And since few people can understand rhyming slang - isn't it also reasonable to ask people to refrain from it - I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that you don't understand it either.
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Old 04.09.2006, 21:49
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
The British English version of the texts may call it a commune, but I'd call it city hall or district (depending on the usage). If I was not British English savvy, I'd wonder what was meant. You're excluding those who are not British English savvy by the use of commune over city hall (or district).
I'm not telling people WHICH English words they want to use - you can decide that for yourself. If you want to use city hall (a bit grandiose don't you think?) then fine - I'm sure the British will figure it out just as much as Americans could probably figure it out if a British person used something like "council office". My only point is that Gemeinde won't be understood that's all.

I'm not keen to make lots of rules, but I think some guidelines and common sense will be needed as this system gets bigger - I want to include more people from the French part rather than exclude them. I've had a lot of feedback already from people in the French part that feel as though this forum is not for them.

Just to re-iterate - I'm not telling you which dialect of English to use. You can choose whichever words you like - just use common sense. Surely this is a reasonable request?
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Old 04.09.2006, 22:00
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
I'm not telling people WHICH English words they want to use - you can decide that for yourself. If you want to use city hall (a bit grandiose don't you think?)
Not in the least. It is what Americans call the place where local government is housed.

Quote:
I'm not keen to make lots of rules, but I think some guidelines and common sense will be needed as this system gets bigger - I want to include more people from the French part rather than exclude them. I've had a lot of feedback already from people in the French part that feel as though this forum is not for them.
I can appreciate that.

Quote:
Just to re-iterate - I'm not telling you which dialect of English to use. You can choose whichever words you like - just use common sense. Surely this is a reasonable request?
My point is that some dialects of English won't quite understand other dialects any more than some French speaking (or living) people won't understand German and vice versa.

If this was about a public document, a user manual, a corporate website, I'd wholeheartedly agree with you. But this is an informal, user-based and populated part-informational, part-social chat forum.
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Old 04.09.2006, 22:08
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
If this was about a public document, a user manual, a corporate website, I'd wholeheartedly agree with you. But this is an informal, user-based and populated part-informational, part-social chat forum.
Are Britain and America two countries divided by a common language? I'm sure we can manage to converse and figure out what each other are saying... Surely it can't be THAT bad??

Some of our posts are almost like public documents, whether we intend them to or be or not - they evolve that way, google finds them, etc. If I wanted strict standards then I'd be going crazy about some of the really poor spelling and punctuation, but I'm not writing a policy for that - I know I'd be fighting a losing battle.

Writing in a way that everyone can understand is just a good habit that's all.

The policy is aimed at the people here who post the most - since they contribute the most content. If we can ask them to think about others when they post, it will make the most difference. After all - those of us who contribute information do so for others' benefit, not our own - why not include as many people as possible rather than only those who understand our "lingo".

Members are also welcome to start a glossary as well - I think such a thing would be useful for the newbies. Remember when you first got here (to CH) - you were a newbie too - it was quite intimidating wasn't it?
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Old 04.09.2006, 22:41
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Me thinks we have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on our hands these days. (I don't, despite my reply...it is more of a work avoidance thingy.)

Guidlines, OK. Rules...well...that would be a little too Swiss for the this group.

How about loosening it up a notch so that frequent posters (TBD) should at least put the non-English word in italics. That is at least the convention in all flavors of English, yes? "I was verbally abused at my local Gemeinde again today."

Such strick if-you-use-the-ampspracht-include-the-English convetions will only force the lazy gits (who, me?) to stop using native terms all together.

Ciao (goodbye/hello),

Stu
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Old 04.09.2006, 22:51
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Hi Stu,

As I wrote in the original post, italics are fine for words which are already in common use as foreign words. Just because those of us living here in the German part use Gemeinde all the time doesn't mean that someone in the French part, or the Italian part, or someone not yet living in Switzerland knows what we are talking about. We have to think of others outside our group.

Let's just put it this way - if the forum was full of people from the French-speaking part using French terms all the time that THEY use in everyday speech wouldn't you start to get just slightly irritated by it?

Strangely - we don't have that many from the French-speaking part, something which I find a little disappointing. Why is that? Is our use of German within our English sending some sort of a message to "the others"?

If you are lazy - just write in English - I never wanted anyone to write in 4 languages. Did you see the words "best, better and good" in my suggestions?
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:03
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Hi Mark,

While I agree with your intent I think policy rather than guideline is a bit strict. And anyway you contradicted it by using Röstigraben incorrectly. You see everyone knows to what this refers and if they do not can google it. However if you put in potato ditch which is the literal translation then no-one has a clue and they can't really google it without knowing what it is... Or am I wrong?

bfn

Richard
PS Are we to assume that we need to take into account non-native English speakers and use international English, you know that synthetic language that actually does not exist...
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:07
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

I saw the word 'bad' with reference closest to my suggestion...meaning no accompaning translation.

The lack of Francophiles would, IMHO, have more to do with the 'competing' forum/expat group that has been mentioned elsewhere.
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:12
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Whilst I think that your idea is good, making it into a policy is a bit OTT.

People come here to chat and naturally if you live in German speaking CH, then you're going to pepper your conversation with German terms.

In fact there are certain things that I only think of in German - like the aforementioned Gemeinde. OK, it's roughly equivalent to a parish council or a local council but it's not quite the same: It's a Gemeinde. And I've never heard it called a Commune outside of the French part.

Here's an idea: Why not make a sticky thread with a glossary of commonly used terms in English with the three main Swiss languages?


Gav
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:26
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
While I agree with your intent I think policy rather than guideline is a bit strict. And anyway you contradicted it by using Röstigraben incorrectly. You see everyone knows to what this refers and if they do not can google it. However if you put in potato ditch which is the literal translation then no-one has a clue and they can't really google it without knowing what it is... Or am I wrong?
My reference to "potato ditch" was actually a joke - I'm aware of how ridiculous it sounds. You may remember we discussed it earlier on this thread.

So if we call it a guideline then you guys will follow it - but if we call it a policy then you'll get all upset? Is that an accurate way to sum it up!
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:28
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
Here's an idea: Why not make a sticky thread with a glossary of commonly used terms in English with the three main Swiss languages?
Great idea - I've been suggesting it to a few people for a while. BUt if you'd like to do it go ahead - I'll make it sticky once it is up. I'm not sure if you were making an offer to do it or asking me to do it? If the former - no thanks I'm busy writing plenty of other content around here, but would appreciate some help
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:34
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

By the way - how about local goverment office for the Gemeindehaus? It is technically the local level of government, and it doesn't sounds as "big" as a hall. It also works well in all flavours of English? Just a suggestion feel free to use what you like and take the piss as much as you want
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Old 04.09.2006, 23:39
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Re: Policy: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

Quote:
Here's an idea: Why not make a sticky thread with a glossary of commonly used terms in English with the three main Swiss languages?
As a newbie, I appreciate very much this new policy/suggestion, as I have found myself lost at times with all the German terms. Personally as a newbie, I'd be ok with either a sticky post as outlined above, or as mark has suggested (including an English equivalent in parenthesis). Both/Either would be helpful in my opinion.

Just wanted to say thanks for thinking about trying to make things easier to understand for the new kids on the block.
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Old 05.09.2006, 07:50
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Re: Guideline: Use of foreign words/terms in posts

I too think the idea of having a "lookup" for commonly used foreign words is an excellent idea. I think though that we are concentrating far too much on this though. Lets see if the moderators can moderate and point out the use of non-acceptable foreign words!

I think the correct way is really to have a guideline requesting that the use of foreign words is refrained and that only those foreign words in common use in the English community in Switzerland are to be accepted but these will be in the lookup list for all to see.

While I do agree that those about to come here may have some difficulty with some of these words it is actually giving them some idea about the unabdingbar (indespensable and sorry it is only 'cos I like the word...) words they will need to learn such as the previously mentioned Gemeinde/Gemeindehaus and Röstigraben incidently this should be fried potato grave - sounds much better.

Lets all make a bit of an effort and see where we get.

On another note given that the level of English here is not on a par maybe we should have a think about the way we write English and promote the Plain English Campaign: http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/plainenglishguide.html
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