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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:

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:

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.

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