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  #21  
Old 19.06.2011, 18:12
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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Hallo!

I am gonna move to Zurich on Sept. I'm wondering to know if Zurich people are able to talk and communicate in English or I should seriously and immediatley force myself to study german before arrival?
By Zurich people, I mean for instance bus driver, shopkeepers, policemen, or even a random passer-by!
For many years (until 2006) my mother when going downtown loved to help out English-speakers and French-speakers, thereby having interesting conversations with people from all over the world. She also intervened when she saw CH people out of a bit primitive anti-German feelings refusing to speak High German, and many of those Germans were really grateful, but again often interesting people for her to speak with. While of course, lots of people here ARE able to talk and communicate in English quite well, you may be in a place even in central downtown where those around either are not able to speak English, or hesitate to do so.

Example: lots of policemen ARE able to communicate in English and French and maybe Italian, but your risk is that you get into touch with one who does neither.
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  #22  
Old 19.06.2011, 18:49
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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That hasn't been my experience. Granted, I've not been here that long, but I was starting to doubt my rusty German until I spent a few days in Germany where I had much, much less trouble communicating in either German or English. I'm not sure why it seems to be so much more difficult in Switzerland, but it is. And I've heard many similar experiences from others so I'm not entirely sure I'm an isolated case.
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Fact is that all CH-German-speakers have to go to school. And school here is done in High-German.


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In particular, Globus or, just about any retail shop where the sales person comes to bother me and I speak to them in English. One poor girl looked so shocked/scared I had to wonder if it was her first day on the job in a flagship department store in an international city. In such a store, particularly in a banking nexus, you'd likely expect to have English spoken by most clerks. I have found that to be a curiously lacking expectation.
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did you look at the name of the clerks ?? Apparently not, as if you had, you would have seen the origin of most of them ! How good is your Albanian ? or your Serbian ? or your Portuguese ? or your Turkish ? And of course Italian, as the supervisors tend to be people of Italian origin


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I'm not entirely sure why English appears to be so aggressively shunned when it appears everywhere in print - used much like a 'spice' - on products, in ads, in slogans, and in graffiti and, particularly, most of the songs on the radio are in English from the UK/US.
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the ads, slogans, radio programs etc are done by CH people (including well integrated people of foreign origin)

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So, there is some complicated algorithm where you're supposed to negotiate the language that I have not quite figured out yet. But the bottom line is, no, many folks around here don't speak English, even the ones you'd feel comfortable in expecting to speak it.
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It has nothing to do with algorithm, but with plain facts. In Zürich for example, English was clearly in a bad position in the school-system. French started in the 1st Secondary Class with one lesson per day, but English only in the 3rd Secondary Class (accessible only if you had a certain minima note in French. Until the late 60ies, you had to chose between English and Italian, and it was only three lessons per week. And shop-clerks usually only went to "Realschule" where languages are NOT priority. And back again, many shop-clerks are from "across-the-border-Germany" where in reality nobody speaks English and astonshingly many folks not even High-German ! Lots are first generations and Secondos of the former Yugoslavia, whose education is bad in many many cases. BUT, those of them who went to school here quite often are GOOD at languages, so that things are likely to improve ! The Tamils ? NOT half as much in English as you might expect. I addressed some Tamils (just a year after the wave of refugees had arrived) in English and they replied *Losed Si ämal, miär reded Schwizertüütsch"

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Learning German helps, but also not as much as you'd expect.
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as elsewhere, a lot depends on YOUR flexibility. What apparently irritates you is the accent. But do you understand full Bavarian accent (not the dialects I mean but what they speak if speaking Standard language) ? or Saxonia dialect or HG accent ? or Platt ? or "Südbadische Mundart " ?

In London, our teacher in the language-lab confronted us with the many accents / dialects evident in the areas of the United Kingdom, and made it plainly clear that what he and his colleagues taught us was the "Main-English" of Greater London, but not what people throughout the country in reality were talking.
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  #23  
Old 19.06.2011, 19:12
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

I would definitely recommend learning as much German as possible. Not only out of respect for the country you're visiting but also out of convenience. You can get by with body language and English, everything is possible, but your life will be much easier if you know at least some words in German.
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  #24  
Old 19.06.2011, 19:20
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

I'm moving to Zurich in a week and purchased a English/German dictionary. I'm working the Rosetta Stone and translator program on Google to learn. So my question is, am I going to look like a fool when I whip out my German dictionary in public? My goal is to show that I'm making an honest, yet ever so cumbersome effort.
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  #25  
Old 19.06.2011, 19:25
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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I would definitely recommend learning as much German as possible. Not only out of respect for the country you're visiting but also out of convenience. You can get by with body language and English, everything is possible, but your life will be much easier if you know at least some words in German.
some words in is the keyword. Wherever you are and go, you do not need to be in full command of the language in question, but ought to know some words and understand the general thing to some extent.
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  #26  
Old 19.06.2011, 19:31
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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I'm moving to Zurich in a week and purchased a English/German dictionary. I'm working the Rosetta Stone and translator program on Google to learn. So my question is, am I going to look like a fool when I whip out my German dictionary in public? My goal is to show that I'm making an honest, yet ever so cumbersome effort.
No, using a dictionary in public is NOT a bad thing anywhere.

I, a few years ago, for an old schoolfriend and his family who were visiting Egypt, compiled a 3-page-German-Arabic "vocabulary" plus an additional page with advice on behavours and customs, custom-made for him, his wife and his son.

The hotel managers in Luxor and Aswan saw it, and photocopied it for their German speaking guests. Both via my friend sent their compliments and thanks !

I in many places on holidays quite openly had a small dictionary ready. Quite normal is what I had on Crete, a discussion with two locals in English and German about translations
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  #27  
Old 19.06.2011, 19:46
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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German helps, yes, but many know English and only the Swiss know Swiss German.

I'm afraid I disagree with this one. All Swiss Germans can speak pretty decent high german - they just don't like to, especially with German. With foreigners however, they will.

I speak High German with an English accent and I've been told it sounds a lot better than my Swiss German with an English accent.

Besides Swiss don't expect foreigners to learn such an awful/difficult dialect!!

With me Swiss either speak High German or slow Swiss German and I would recommend to all foreigners to learn High German firstly it just sounds better and secondly it's more useful.
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  #28  
Old 19.06.2011, 20:17
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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the ads, slogans, radio programs etc are done by CH people (including well integrated people of foreign origin)
Sure, but why use it so much if it's shunned and so few people speak it? I just find it curious, especially with English being so often the language of choice for graffiti, particularly the profane graffiti, all over Europe.

No other language that I'm aware of gets used like this so I just find it interesting.

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It has nothing to do with algorithm, but with plain facts. In Zürich for example, English was clearly in a bad position in the school-system. French started in the 1st Secondary Class with one lesson per day, but English only in the 3rd Secondary Class (accessible only if you had a certain minima note in French. Until the late 60ies, you had to chose between English and Italian, and it was only three lessons per week. And shop-clerks usually only went to "Realschule" where languages are NOT priority. And back again, many shop-clerks are from "across-the-border-Germany" where in reality nobody speaks English and astonshingly many folks not even High-German ! Lots are first generations and Secondos of the former Yugoslavia, whose education is bad in many many cases. BUT, those of them who went to school here quite often are GOOD at languages, so that things are likely to improve ! The Tamils ? NOT half as much in English as you might expect. I addressed some Tamils (just a year after the wave of refugees had arrived) in English and they replied *Losed Si ämal, miär reded Schwizertüütsch"
It's odd as my cranky Bavarian Grandfather never would speak anything but German...even after he moved to the US...so I fully expected when we were in Bavaria that such would be the same and had the exact opposite experience, even at a fuel station in the middle of nowhere when the clerk wanted to 'practice her English' after she heard me talking to my daughter. Everyone spoke English. I also overheard a lot more English being spoken in Germany which was a bit of a surprise, too.

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as elsewhere, a lot depends on YOUR flexibility. What apparently irritates you is the accent. But do you understand full Bavarian accent (not the dialects I mean but what they speak if speaking Standard language) ? or Saxonia dialect or HG accent ? or Platt ? or "Südbadische Mundart " ?
It could be the accent that is throwing me off as even my husband who is reasonably fluent in German (and about 8 other languages) is completely lost here when it comes to the language. We're both older now, too, which makes it tougher in terms of adapting quickly.

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In London, our teacher in the language-lab confronted us with the many accents / dialects evident in the areas of the United Kingdom, and made it plainly clear that what he and his colleagues taught us was the "Main-English" of Greater London, but not what people throughout the country in reality were talking.
So true I used to have a lot of fun in another country where English was usually the 3rd language of study and the kids always feared the spoken exams. I believe it was the Indian and the Scottish accents that were the most dreaded of all. I still giggle at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pTXi9Z2AYA thinking how many native speakers would fail the 'English English' quiz.
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  #29  
Old 19.06.2011, 23:11
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

I've been here almost 6 years and survived perfectly well with almost no german whatso ever. Most people speak some English. Maybe i would of got more out of my time here if I spoke some more but it's not something to worry about too much!!
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  #30  
Old 20.06.2011, 01:58
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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Sure, but why use it so much if it's shunned and so few people speak it? I just find it curious, especially with English being so often the language of choice for graffiti, particularly the profane graffiti, all over Europe.
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No other language that I'm aware of gets used like this so I just find it interesting.
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A) it is NOT shunned, but described here as "Schriftdeutsch" for a reason
B) it is the language of education, communication, news (incl. TV), literature, letters, business
C) German is THE majority language in CH, Swiss German simply is some local and regional dialects


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It could be the accent that is throwing me off as even my husband who is reasonably fluent in German (and about 8 other languages) is completely lost here when it comes to the language. We're both older now, too, which makes it tougher in terms of adapting quickly.
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Taking that Bavaria connection into account, it is clear that it is the accent or rather the accentS which irritate you here.
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  #31  
Old 20.06.2011, 05:40
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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A French-speaking friend of mine who's been here since 1995 and has a Malaysian wife who doesn't speak German claims the same. Makes me think I've just been unlucky with my experiences over the last 3 weeks.
It's my 3rd month in Switzerland had a lot of bad experiences and issues with the language though I know the basic German still I feel very unlucky. Strange people find there way through for 40 years or so without learning German . Still struggling
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  #32  
Old 20.06.2011, 16:33
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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It's my 3rd month in Switzerland had a lot of bad experiences and issues with the language though I know the basic German still I feel very unlucky. Strange people find there way through for 40 years or so without learning German . Still struggling
Just a hint. Try to get an Urdu-German/German-Urdu dictionary somehow, and do not tackle German via English but directly, as Urdu and German are closer than Urdu and English. And try to work on it the relaxed way.
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  #33  
Old 20.06.2011, 18:54
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

You need to learn German or you will find your self at the jail ,

like somebody everyday getting letters into his box ,he was thinking it is welcome letters to die Schweiz !!??, advertisements ,invitation to join party ( since he can not read German , which in fact was all bills
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  #34  
Old 20.06.2011, 23:28
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

I think knowing High German can help (if you're not German, otherwise the Swiss won't treat you too well, or so I've seen), but not always...

I've been studying High German since last November (I'm still at A2 level, I can't rush through a new language or I just forget everything I learned in a year) and, although I can understand A LOT more than I ever thought I'd be able to in Swiss German, I sometimes feel I'm wasting my time learning High German here... but this has more to do with the mood I'm in on that day than with the language itself :P

I have never had any problems whatsoever when I needed to speak English to anyone in Zürich. Ever. I think the majority of people here do speak English, even if it's just a bit, it all comes down to how YOU talk to them (say, if you come up to someone and just start talking in English, assuming they'll get you, that's probably gonna seem rude, so just ask first before talking in English, that seems to help, for me at least).

Now, here in Wetzikon I find it not that easy to find English speakers, but that's when I put my German to practice. And get quite frustrated, most of the times
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Old 20.06.2011, 23:47
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Re: Speaking English in Zurich

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I think knowing High German can help (if you're not German, otherwise the Swiss won't treat you too well, or so I've seen), but not always...

I've been studying High German since last November (I'm still at A2 level, I can't rush through a new language or I just forget everything I learned in a year) and, although I can understand A LOT more than I ever thought I'd be able to in Swiss German, I sometimes feel I'm wasting my time learning High German here... but this has more to do with the mood I'm in on that day than with the language itself :P

I have never had any problems whatsoever when I needed to speak English to anyone in Zürich. Ever. I think the majority of people here do speak English, even if it's just a bit, it all comes down to how YOU talk to them (say, if you come up to someone and just start talking in English, assuming they'll get you, that's probably gonna seem rude, so just ask first before talking in English, that seems to help, for me at least).

Now, here in Wetzikon I find it not that easy to find English speakers, but that's when I put my German to practice. And get quite frustrated, most of the times
Wasting your time ?
No, as books and newspapers and magazines and manuals and letters of course are all in High German, and so is a good part of TV, for example the news.
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