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  #61  
Old 23.05.2011, 10:21
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

The most BS thing about lack of English proficiency is Doctors who can't speak English. I mean seriously? How can they keep up with the latest research if they can't understand English?
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:21
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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If you are quite happy to sit in your cocoon of only speaking English then fine, but don't complain that OTHERS are too lazy to bother.
Fixed that for ya..
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:33
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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I haven't forgotten. I was talking about the English that was taught here, and the end result of a high school life ending in no ability to communicate in that language.

The question was, can people really speak English after High school etc, or do they feign not being able to ?
What percentage of Americans can speak anything other than English after5 years of a foreign language? Very few, despite all those years of study. The only members of my family that do are my niece, who spent 5 years at school in Milano, and my sister who often came to visit her, but neither of them learned it in the US!

Tom
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:34
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

My groan for the day.

Why should we expect that the Swiss speak English? Why not try the local language? Even if it is broken crap coming out of your mouth.

For Example

I had the misfourtune of having to deal with the burocrats in the Amt fur Migration in Zug last Friday, I was already dreading the experience after being in the office a couple of weeks earlier. The gent there spoke Zero english. Anyway I'm going off topic.

So I rock up there on friday and try in dodgy deutsch to ask for the correct forms to register my fiancee. I was pointed to the correct form and asked to complete it. So after 10 mins or so of checking the form for content and googling a couple of word I had completed it.

Into the office walks a guy with his brats (who are destroying the place and making hell of a racket) + wifey.

He walks straight up to the counter and starts to speak english extremely quickly that the now mortified counter girl.

This continues for 15 minutes as he gives his life story to the girl behind the counter. Why could he not at least manage a gruetsi, and at least try to do something for himself without having his arse wiped?

The counter girl should have given him the form and told him to fill it out.

Anyway I complete the form go to the counter and speak to a second woman again in broken German, she asks me for several documents and I start to translate for my fiancee.

The counter assistant then realises we speak English as a main language and she smiles and asks if English would be easier for us. Shes asks x2 questions takes the photocopies of the relevent documents and job done.

Why is it some of us expect a free ride and some of us at least try even if it is somewhat embarrassing ?

I learnt French for 7 yrs, German for 2ys, Spanish for 4yrs and it's all gone if you don't use it daily it goes from memory extremely quickly, probably the position of most Swiss I would say.
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:35
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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What percentage of Americans can speak anything other than English after5 years of a foreign language? Very few, despite all those years of study. The only members of my family that do are my niece, who spent 5 years at school in Milano, and my sister who often came to visit her, but neither of them learned it in the US!

Tom
If they learnt 5 years of Italian, listened to Italian music, watched Italian movies and the majority of international politics and...well...basically anything of any grave importance was done in Italian....then I bet they would speak pretty good Italian.
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:39
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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If children have done their three years of secondary school and then go on to become sales assistants, do they need the same amount of English as someone studying for university? Of course, not.
In Ticino it is, all students doing apprenticeships here learn English (as well as German).

Don't know many who actually speak it, though, not even those who went to university, German is FAR more likely.

Tom
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:46
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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The most BS thing about lack of English proficiency is Doctors who can't speak English. I mean seriously? How can they keep up with the latest research if they can't understand English?
By reading about it in German? I know that it is a matter of perspective and the native English speakers obviously see only publications in English. But the world is a bit larger than that and depending on your interests is English not necessarily the first priority.
1. By far the most foreigners in Switzerland come from one of the neighbouring countries and do speak one local language - typically the one used in the part of the country they are in. So it is not a coincidence that the French are in Geneva and the Germans in Zurich...
2. The biggest trade partners of Switzerland are the neighbouring countries that happen to speak the local languages as well...
3. The banks and pharma have a huge impact on the Swiss economy, but most JOBS are actually in SMBs - where English is far from essential.

I am not at all "against" English - that would be a bit ironic given the time I spend on reading English websites and discussion boards. All I am trying to say is that most people here have themselves a very specific view and that your expat situation in a multinational is far from the reality of most Swiss.

P.S: Listening to most top 40 pop songs, I regularly regret that I actually understand what they are singing.

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Old 23.05.2011, 10:50
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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 ?
I would say, based on my 25 years here, the answer is generally NO.

Tom
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Old 23.05.2011, 10:54
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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By reading about it in German? I know that it is a matter of perspective and the native English speakers obviously see only publications in English. But the world is a bit larger than that and depending on your interests is English not necessarily the first priority.
1. By far the most foreigners in Switzerland come from one of the neighbouring countries and do speak one local language - typically the one used in the part of the country they are in. So it is not a coincidence that the French are in Geneva and the Germans in Zurich...
2. The biggest trade partners of Switzerland are the neighbouring countries that happen to speak the local languages as well...
3. The banks and pharma have a huge impact on the Swiss economy, but most JOBS are actually in SMBs - where English is far from essential.

I am not at all "against" English - that would be a bit ironic given the time I spend on reading English websites and discussion boards. All I am trying to say is that most people here have themselves a very specific view and that your expat situation in a multinational is far from the reality of most Swiss.

P.S: Listening to most top 40 pop songs, I regularly regret that I actually understand what they are singing.

[YOUTUE]LDtYkOrV4-E[/YOUTUBE]
If you are doctor all the high impact worthwhile journals (NEJM, Science, Nature, lancet) are in English. I can't for the life of me imagine someone doing some ground breaking research worthy of a high impact publication and thinking

'hmmmmmm, I think I will publish in some obscure German publication to apease our Swiss German overlords...despite them not knowing proper German....yes yes Jorgi....we shall do that'
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Old 23.05.2011, 11:00
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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you forget that English is not a local language here.
True however it is the business language of the world.

Problem is IMHO we expats, Brits and Yanks especially, are embarrassing lazy when it comes to foreign languages; we tend to expect to just keep communicating in our native tongue wherever and to whomever worldwide!
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Old 23.05.2011, 11:33
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

For me, I don't think it's the fact that I want to be spoken to in English here. It's the concern that the kids leave school with not enough of a language that is so largely spoken worldwide. That would be a concern for my child's future job prospects. Especially with there being so many expats here and English being so common in the workplace.

Having said that, I agree it is also a confidence thing. I studied French and Spanish at school, I can speak both and once I get started quite a lot of vocabulary comes back. However, its the getting started It may not be quite right grammatically but people get my drift.

I have always respected the languages of the countries I have visited and at least tried to say please and thank you. The smile this brings is so worth it, they can laugh at my accent all they like but I've made the effort.

Have to say that after 6 months it is so nice to hear the kids jabbering away in German and am really quite proud of them, even if they do have to translate for me sometimes!
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Old 23.05.2011, 12:12
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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 ?

Considering how many Americans I know (lots and lots, I tell you!) who took foreign languages in school and can not actually speak a lick longer than it takes to finish school (at whichever point they decide to stop), I think it would be mighty high of us to expect folks in any other country to speak conversational level English.

Appreciate those who can, don't expect it.



Me, I took one year of French and failed miserably but did well (in school anyhow!) with three years of Japanese... I remember very little of either though as it was never used.

Also, I remember when we lived in Japan when I was young, some of the teens in our neighborhood would invite my sister and I over to listen to music and have some treats so they could practice speaking English with us. Probably it was similar in school for them as for us, feeling silly trying to speak it when the accent sounds so funny to the ears, you don't want to be the first one, so everyone is shy. Meanwhile, it was "easy" for the two girls to talk with my sis and I as we were younger (I would have been about 9, and my sis was 11 at the time to their 14 - 16) AND had been a couple years playing with our Okinawan neighbors so were already accustomed to muddling through and not making anyone (or being made ourselves) feel silly.

With that any my own experience in mind, I imagine for many, wherever they live, whatever the languages in question are, even if they have opportunity to learn languages in school, the lack of use proves "fatal" to their skill at some point.
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Old 23.05.2011, 12:19
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

there were this 2 mexicans once, standing in a corner.

Along comes a "gringo"(whatever blonde you want). in a car and asks:

-"Excuse me, do you know where 123 fake street is?"
The mexicans just stare at him in bewilderment, so he asks.

"Parla Italiano?"- To wish the stoic mexican stare is used as a response.
"Parlez-vous français?"- a head scratch was now the kind reply.
"Sprechen Sie deutsch?" - the mexicans start to uncomfortable back away.

Seeing that there is no progress, the guy rolls up the window and drives a way.

Then one of the mexicans says to the other: " Maybe we should learn some other language"
The other mexican replies: " Pff, what for, that guy spoke 4 and see what good it did to him...."


Maybe closing the gap should be on us....
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Old 23.05.2011, 14:45
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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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.

This is a widespread problem. I however use other languages even if I have never really learnt them. In Italy I speak Italian, and my "theoretical knowledge" is a booklet I studied in 1970 "Italienisch in 30 Tagen" Before that, I got some advice from Mum and my older brother (who never spoke Italian himself ! ) and learnt from what I heard and what I saw all around me. I on a visit to Barcelona combined some 30 words of Castilian and some 20 words of Catalun and approached people with my Voodoo-Spanish. I suppose it sounds horrible, but the Spaniards, in general not really having "Foreignish" as their Forte, appreciated my way.

In case of your "A-Level-Italian" I have the suspicion that you learnt far too much theoretical rubbish, and not something practical Go on excursions or holidays to the Ticino or to Italy, and simply use whatever you remember. Look at what you can see written on buildings, on menus, on the side of roads and/or rail-tracks and use those expressions. Don't embark on complicated phrases. Use simple things like "Quanta Costa" when asking for the price. Or "Dove e ....." to ask for whereabouts. Or "e possibile di avere ....." . Exactly Italians are very helpful if you try, and do not make much ado about mistakes.
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Old 23.05.2011, 14:55
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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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.
The trend in most Cantons seems to be what I am in favour of, to teach both the next "internal-foreign" language AND English in parallel on the same level. I do not believe that learning English damages the ability to learn French, or the other way round.

The reason why the Romandie opposed the development is that even this of course has further reduced the relative importance of French in German speaking Switzerland. Long gone are the pre WWII times when young German speakers in Switzerland went to the Romandie for half a year or more to learn French. And long gone are the times when French was seen as the symbol of resistance against Nazi-Germany. So that modern developments have reduced the importance of French, and this not only in Switzerland. But of course, up into the 80ies, many Romands visiting places like Zürich or Luzern simply and successfully continued to speak French, as the pre-war generation folks mostly spoke French fairly well.
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Old 23.05.2011, 14:57
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

hey Wolli...
you're a forum legend, so... like.... multiquote....



Also, what are you doing on the dayshift (you usually post at night)
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Old 23.05.2011, 15:01
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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..of course it does. Why are other countries more proficient then?
Because, quite obviously, traditional Swiss language teaching methods are FAAAR too theoretical. I still remember in KV-Zürich, when our French teacher, with our previous agreement, brought round French learning books from Paris. It was an unbelievable difference ! For Arabic, what the IMA Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris produces is miles better than what you get in Switzerland or Germany. You may tell me that progress is made. Sure, but really by the Cantonal Education Directorates ?? As I see them, they still use the material from 1975 etc
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Old 23.05.2011, 15:03
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

I find the English books they use at school nowadays are quite modern.
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Old 23.05.2011, 15:07
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Because, quite obviously, traditional Swiss language teaching methods are FAAAR too theoretical. I still remember in KV-Zürich, when our French teacher, with our previous agreement, brought round French learning books from Paris. It was an unbelievable difference ! For Arabic, what the IMA Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris produces is miles better than what you get in Switzerland or Germany. You may tell me that progress is made. Sure, but really by the Cantonal Education Directorates ?? As I see them, they still use the material from 1975 etc
Well, my point really is...taking into account the pisa stuy..along with the newspaper article...and the sheer amount of expats in Switzerland...that the public education system in Switzerland is truly lacking.
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Old 23.05.2011, 15:11
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Re: Leaving the Swiss schooling system and unable to speak much English...

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Because, quite obviously, traditional Swiss language teaching methods are FAAAR too theoretical. I still remember in KV-Zürich, when our French teacher, with our previous agreement, brought round French learning books from Paris. It was an unbelievable difference ! For Arabic, what the IMA Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris produces is miles better than what you get in Switzerland or Germany. You may tell me that progress is made. Sure, but really by the Cantonal Education Directorates ?? As I see them, they still use the material from 1975 etc
I prefer the joys of Tricolore books with nobs drawn on the males and tits on the females, the joy of learning languages at aged 12-14.

French is on it's arse it's a stubborn language refusing to die...with the monster breathing down it's neck from across the Channel.

There's only so many french shite europop tunes you can play on the radio before the locals start to revolt.. I would have slit my wrists a long time ago if I was French.

<trollin, trollin, trollin..>

Why is it in textbooks the photos of the French always look like this?

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