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  #41  
Old 22.05.2011, 16:57
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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So, getting back on topic.

Is it reasonable , knowing the educational background, to expect a Swiss native to understand and speak English at a basic conversational level ?
Now you are asking if they can speak it... the original message was whether they would actually speak it. That is not the same question. Which do you want?
Make sure you do not mix up the fact that people have a skill and the context in which they are willing to use it.
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  #42  
Old 22.05.2011, 16:59
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Aha ! That explains a lot. Thanks.

How far do we have to go back ?
Get back to the stove you!! However, in my (limited) experience I have found that, on the whole, the under 30s have a better grasp of English.
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  #43  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:02
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Now you are asking if they can speak it... the original message was whether they would actually speak it. That is not the same question. Which do you want?
Make sure you do not mix up the fact that people have a skill and the context in which they are willing to use it.
That is exactly what I posted at the beginning... Trying to find out the reason why.

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I mean , how is that possible ? ...
Deliberate ignorance, plausible denial, embarrassment or truly not being able to ?
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  #44  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:03
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Get back to the stove you!! However, in my (limited) experience I have found that, on the whole, the under 30s have a better grasp of English.
Spooky. I was running between my PC and the mild beef curry I am preparing whilst trying to keep up with this thread...
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  #45  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:13
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Spooky. I was running between my PC and the mild beef curry I am preparing whilst trying to keep up with this thread...
Today, 15:06
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Re: Small things that make your day
Watching OH slave away in the kitchen to give me a 'day off'. Looking forward to beef curry :-)


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Well he must have a laptop in there!!!
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  #46  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:22
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Tell that to someone from the Baltics living in here.
People from the Baltic countries are usually doing quite fine here. At least I did not witness any specific Anti-Lithuanian propaganda so far... (If you are talking about the -ic people, they are from the Balkans...)
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  #47  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:23
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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They are not able to. Why would they feign?
Most Swiss love practising languages, and will be happy to try their English on you.

That is a sweeping generalisation, that simply contradicts my experience in Zurich.
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  #48  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:25
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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People from the Baltic countries are usually doing quite fine here. At least I did not witness any specific Anti-Lithuanian propaganda so far... (If you are talking about the -ic people, they are from the Balkans...)
Oh goodness, of course. You're right. Thanks. The BalkANS.
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  #49  
Old 22.05.2011, 17:35
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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My experience in Switzerland is that if I apologise profusely for not speaking the local language (Swiss German) and assure them that their English is bound to better than my Swiss German, then people do attempt to speak to me in English.
This might not necessarily apply to Switzerland, but while I visited Montréal, I assumed that French was the first language of people I met and I would ask people in French if they knew English. That cut me a lot of slack. There's a big difference between saying "Excuse me, do you speak English?" and "Perdonnez-moi, mais je ne parle pas français..."

Also, having studied foreign languages in high school and college in the United States, I am in no position to criticize Swiss education.
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  #50  
Old 23.05.2011, 00:39
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Most people in Scandinavia had 8 years of German in school. I was not impressed.
I don't know for Denmark or Norway, but in Sweden German is not mandatory, only English is...
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  #51  
Old 23.05.2011, 00:43
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Today, 15:06
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Re: Small things that make your day
Watching OH slave away in the kitchen to give me a 'day off'. Looking forward to beef curry :-)



Wow - nothing gets past you, does it??!!
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  #52  
Old 23.05.2011, 00:43
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I mean , how is that possible ? Surely after 5-10 years all school leavers should have a basic grasp and understanding. Just read threads about host families and landlords not being able to utter even the basics.

Deliberate ignorance, plausible denial, embarrassment or truly not being able to ?

Mange tout, mange tout.
I wouldn't bash one of the countries which are incredible gifted when it comes to language skills...

I agree that English is a world language, but don't take it for granted,
that a non speaking country learns English should be seen as a favor...

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So, getting back on topic.

Is it reasonable , knowing the educational background, to expect a Swiss native to understand and speak English at a basic conversational level ?
if you do not maintain the language that you learned, it will easily get forgotten...probably most people understand but do not feel comfortable speaking it...

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It really depends on the place and situation, if you are working for a global company in switzerland, and the official language is English, then yes I would expect people to communicate in English, and not start speaking Swiss German during a business conference call.
don't expect, but normally people attending meetings and telecons usually know the language level of the other participants...doesn't make any sense to speak English if 9 of 10 are Swiss and the 10th understands German or Dialect...

Last edited by MusicChick; 26.05.2011 at 08:37. Reason: Merged consecutive posts. Learn to multiquote, please.
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  #53  
Old 23.05.2011, 00:50
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I wouldn't bash one of the countries which are incredible gifted when it comes to language skills...

I agree that English is a world language, but don't take it for granted,
that a non speaking country learns English should be seen as a favor...
You miss the point, it wasn't bashing...

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if you do not maintain the language that you learned, it will easily get forgotten...probably most people understand but do not feel comfortable speaking it...
An answer I was looking for...

Last edited by MusicChick; 26.05.2011 at 08:38. Reason: Merging successive posts.
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  #54  
Old 23.05.2011, 00:54
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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I mean , how is that possible ? Surely after 5-10 years all school leavers should have a basic grasp and understanding. Just read threads about host families and landlords not being able to utter even the basics.

Deliberate ignorance, plausible denial, embarrassment or truly not being able to ?

Mange tout, mange tout.
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Old 23.05.2011, 00:58
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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An answer I was looking for...
For instance in Sweden, we're brought listening to English all day long, music, series and movies (all with subtitles), so most Swedish people understand English perfectly well, but the majority wouldn't speak very well, especially when it comes to pronunciations since they are not practicing it....
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  #56  
Old 23.05.2011, 08:09
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I mean , how is that possible ? Surely after 5-10 years all school leavers should have a basic grasp and understanding. Just read threads about host families and landlords not being able to utter even the basics.

Deliberate ignorance, plausible denial, embarrassment or truly not being able to ?

Mange tout, mange tout.

A) How old are they ? English before 1975 was clearly far back and only took place (under conditions) from 3rd Secondary Class .
B) Much of what people learn of English and French in CH schools is just of theoretical language, is not worth much in practice and may even get forgotten
C) many people who COULD speak English and/or French will hesitate to use their capabilities out of fear to fail

I had French during 6 years, but forgot most of the theoretical rubbish very swiftly and on holidays to France made a re-start. Beside the fact that people who went to school before 1975 in many cases (Realschule ZH for example) had NO English at all. Add to this that somebody who grew up with Albanian, Serbian and Italian when learning German already was in the FOURTH language. That for Turks, German and Italian come BEFORE French and English.

So that the "....... years of .... " theory quoted above does not hold water.

Last edited by MusicChick; 26.05.2011 at 08:40. Reason: Merged consecutive posts. Learn to multiquote, please. Capitalizing entire words is also not good netiquettte.
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  #57  
Old 23.05.2011, 08:44
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

There's a sense of having to speak a language perfectly before attempting to do so. I have this with Italian, got an A-Level in it - terrified to actually speak it for fear of saying something wrong.
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  #58  
Old 23.05.2011, 09:10
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

A few thoughts.

1) To think that someone having studied a language for 5yrs. should be then proficient in it, is possibly naive. I studied French (like Nicola wrote previously) for 5yrs, and still needed a 6th yr and a re-take to scrape an O-level C pass - and still couldn't really use it to communicate.
Unfortunately, at secondary school level, languages (as most subjects) are taught just to pass exams.

2) Again, as mentioned above, the adage of "use it or lose it", rings very true, and learnt knowledge can be soon and easily forgotten if not practised - hence the willingness of many Swiss to practice when they meet the likes of us - not helping our own language acquisition.

3) Having gained a qualification in TESOL, one of the most important things I learnt was that often people prefer not to speak a learnt foreign language for fear of making mistakes (also highlighted above). In training we learnt not to pick up on every error initially, but gradually and subtly correct in general terms for the whole class and not the individual(s) making the mistake(s) - the whole point being, it is better to communicate with mistakes, than not communicate at all. In the majority of cases, inferred meaning is always derived.
If the same principle is not taught at school level with any foreign language than it is likely there will be a reluctance to use it.
[after 10yrs, I still stumble around with a lack of vocab. and often inaccurate grammar]

4) Kanton Fribourg is bi-lingual. Because of my location and associations, it was important for me to learn German. However, the next villages and the city are French speaking, so I have to attempt to converse in French too - so instead of mastering one, I scrape by in one and struggle with the other - but I have no fear of making an ass of myself with mistakes, and in the majority of cases I get my meaning across, and understand the responses.

5) All the German speaking people in this area, that I know, are fluent in French. However as soon as you go into the city there is a real reluctance of many of the French speakers. (in shops and service) to speak German.
Many don't want to, but also a lot just can't, although they will have undoubtedly learnt it in school (at all levels of schooling).

6) A final point - for about the last 5yrs (maybe longer), there have been discussions, debates and votes at local and national level to introduce English as the first/next language to be taught in schools, after German (or French) - predominantly in German speaking Kantons. I am unsure as to what stage this is at, but if it hasn't already been adopted by some Kantons, I believe it soon will be.
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  #59  
Old 23.05.2011, 10:19
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

I'm not sure it's correct to compare English to learning French or German at school up to GCSE. It's not the same. English is THE international language. Regardless of whether a swisslet learns English or wants to learn English they will be subject to English.

All the most popular music is in English
All the most popular films are in English
All the biggest companies require English

As for dubbing of films. It's simply not the same. I pay to go and say my favourite actor, and to have his voice dubbed in another language is a rip off.

If you are quite happy to sit in your cocoon of only speaking French then fine, don't learn English. But if you want to get anywhere in life then being fluent in English is pretty important.
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  #60  
Old 23.05.2011, 10:20
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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I had French during 6 years, but forgot most of the theoretical rubbish very swiftly and on holidays to France made a re-start. Beside the fact that people who went to school before 1975 in many cases (Realschule ZH for example) had NO English at all. Add to this that somebody who grew up with Albanian, Serbian and Italian when learning German already was in the FOURTH language. That for Turks, German and Italian come BEFORE French and English.

So that the "....... years of .... " theory quoted above does not hold water.
..of course it does. Why are other countries more proficient then?
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