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  #101  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:02
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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Italy and France are also very touristy - and most cops do NOT speak English at all. Do you expect the cops here to speak Chinese, Brazilian, Russian and Japanese too?
London is a very touristy city. But the average cop there doesn't speak much Japanese.
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  #102  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:04
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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There were some people saying some eastern European languages are more widely spoken than English in Switzerland...my first post was clear apologies.
But I hope you're not suggesting that people who speak those languages should be questioned by the police more often. There's enough of that going on as it is.
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  #103  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:07
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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Do you expect the cops here to speak Chinese, Brazilian, Russian and Japanese too?
No, I expect one of a hundred cops at the police station to speak English. Most of tourists speak a little bit of English or one person in the group of tourists does speak English. Or there is a doubt that English is an international language used and studied globally the most? I am a very frequent traveler (over 100 flights per year). When I am in hotel or the airport of China, Algeria, Saudi Arabia or Cuba, I do ask my questions in English, not German.

And the argument that Italian or French police does not speak international languages is really lame. Sorry. I am kind of person that tries to make the world easier for travelers like me.
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  #104  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:17
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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But I hope you're not suggesting that people who speak those languages should be questioned by the police more often. There's enough of that going on as it is.
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  #105  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:31
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

The problem is that all of those leaflets & especially the interpreters cost a small fortune. The maternity unit my sister works in has to get a translator in every time a women comes in who does not speak English even if her husband does, it takes a huge chunk out of an already limited budget.

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Also in UK, the city council and Police go out of their way to communicate with minorities, I have seen loads of leaflets, posters in Urdu, Hindi, Polish, Farsi, you name it and they pay freelance interpreters when needed starting from Heathrow all the way to the criminal courts ..And this in a country where the local language is at worldly as it gets. Respect!
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  #106  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:32
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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You therefore have two possibilities: Either you use every excuse not to learn German or you get to grips and learn the language.
There is another possibility: move to one of the parts where they don't speak German!

Tom
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  #107  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:35
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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Especially in a country where a third of the country is not Swiss
It's a fifth, not a third (since when is 20% a third?)

Tom
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  #108  
Old 04.08.2011, 20:36
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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Is "si" the Swiss Italian version of Lei?
No, however it is correct (it is the Italian version of "one").

"Si dovrebbe imparare la lingua del luogo in cui si vive"

One should learn the language of the place where one lives.

Tom
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  #109  
Old 04.08.2011, 21:49
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

Oh just what the forum needed on this slow day, someone having a little rant and making the fatal mistake of doing it outside of Complaints Corner . 6 pages and soon 7. I would post a cute captioned kitten but let's just say I LoLed.


I went to the cops in Nyon a while back to return a small briefcase I found in the parking garage. They needed all my details for whatever reason, and when the cop saw USA she switched right away from French to English. Mind you my spoken French is rather good. Her English was good, strong accent but good vocabulary and I asked,"so are you the English speaker in this department?" a bit jokingly. She came back,"no no, I sink all speek a leetle beet, ees necessaree!".


Why propose the ridiculous argument that cops should speak Serbian or Hindi or whatever? C'mon, English is the most universal language out there. But those last two lines make up in essence about 5 pages of this thread so whaaaatever. Making sense doesn't jibe well with being indignant so I get it, I get it.
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  #110  
Old 04.08.2011, 22:01
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

Isn't it also possible they didn't WANT to speak English? It saw this myself: was stopped at the border once and while waiting for some paperwork an Indian guy tried for at least 5 minutes to explain some stuff to the border guards. I finally had enough and started to translate ad-hoc. To my (and the guy's) complete astonishment, the border guy replied in a perfect british accent: "your paperwork is valid for two axles, while your van has three". I later guessed they didn't want to speak English because the guy was kind of yelling and pushing them around (or they just don't like ausländers).

Also, I've not been here that long (almost 1 year), but in my 3-4 encounters with the police they were EXTREMELY polite and helpful (in German). True, I don't live in Zürich, so that might be a factor, but I like to think it has more to do with the way I talk to them, which is also very polite. And to be honest, this has been my experience in a few other countries as well. Hell, even back home the policemen used to think they're gods, but I never met one who (even if he started off arrogant) I could speak to in a decent manner. In the end, they're also human beings and if you treat them as such you might get a better response.

To be clear, I don't mean to say the OP necessarily did something to pi** them off, but I find it extremely strange that not one spoke English. I'd much sooner suspect they just didn't want to use it (which, of course, sucks and is stupid, but there you go).
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  #111  
Old 04.08.2011, 22:08
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

Just to put a shade of grey into the situation, I know there are far more Swiss people who would be prepared to chat with me in English about football or TV in the pub than would be prepared to hold an interview for an official statement in English.

By taking a statement from you, they're taking on the responsibility to swear on the accuracy of their English translation in front of a court - would you be confident enough to do that in a language you last learnt at school? Your average policeman on the desk doesn't want it coming back to bite him if he misunderstands something you say.

I speak German pretty fluently, but if I witnessed a serious crime I would only testify through a professional interpreter - someone who would not only be less likely to make mistakes, but also be prepared to take on that responsibility for accuracy. I'm surprised a phone interpreter wasn't offered, but until you learn enough you're going to have to rely on taking your own translation help along and buying them a beer afterwards

Good luck with learning German, and use the experience as motivation when faced with another hour learning grammar or another page of vocabulary. The independence it will give you is well worth the effort.
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  #112  
Old 04.08.2011, 22:29
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

This also might explain why Switzerland has such low crime statistics as if the police leave out anyone who can't speak German or Swiss, that's a pretty big chunk left off the books.

I do find it rather odd that so many expect the OP to speak German in a major international finance/city center after being a victim of a crime. if this were a tourist, would the expectations be the same? It's not very good PR for the troubled tourism industry to be unable to assist visitors in a time of need if they don't speak German. What about corporations with international employees? Can't keep the best talent around if you have to worry that if your German isn't up to the task that you're on your own with public safety folks.
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  #113  
Old 04.08.2011, 22:33
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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This also might explain why Switzerland has such low crime statistics as if the police leave out anyone who can't speak German or Swiss, that's a pretty big chunk left off the books.

I do find it rather odd that so many expect the OP to speak German in a major international finance/city center after being a victim of a crime. if this were a tourist, would the expectations be the same? It's not very good PR for the troubled tourism industry to be unable to assist visitors in a time of need if they don't speak German. What about corporations with international employees? Can't keep the best talent around if you have to worry that if your German isn't up to the task that you're on your own with public safety folks.

Interesting, but the flaw in that theory is ofcourse that we all know that crime in Switzerland is only commited by foreigners, it must be true, the SVP told us that.
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  #114  
Old 05.08.2011, 00:34
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

I find this thread quite ridiculous, and sympathize with the original poster.

Learning the language is important when you go live somewhere for a while, but that is hardly the issue here.

There is no law that requires any interaction in English in Switzerland. Yet people at train stations, banks, post offices, and most stores speak English, and everybody learn it at school for quite a while now. People with some basic education here generally speak English -- it is not a very high or unusual requirement from anyone. Being a relatively developed country, one would expect police to employ reasonably educated officers.

I think the original poster was unlucky to fall on an officer that does not speak English, and find it hard to believe that nobody at the Enge station at the time could speak it. In both occasions where I had to deal with the police here the officers I interacted with could speak fair English, and in the earlier instance I actually did speak English with the officer (regardless of my level of the local language, at occasions I would really rather speak a language I am really fluent in; I used German the second time when I was more comfortable with it). A coworker of mine went to the Enge police station recently to file a report with the police and they spoke English too.

Requiring everything to be written and announced also in English is a bit much to ask for, and learning the local language is important anyway, but officials of some rank being able to speak English when the need arises, or at least refer you to someone who does, is I'd say a reasonable thing to expect here.
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  #115  
Old 05.08.2011, 01:08
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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I was 2 days into CH and looking for a Swisscom shop I asked a policeman for directions. Note this was in central Basel in a pedestrian area.

My first words were (in broken German): "Excuse me, do you speak French or English?"

His answer: "Nein, wir sind in Basel, wir sprechen Deutch..." (excuse typos!)
Strange. I asked a bus driver for directions in Basel and I didn't even ask if he spoke French, I just asked it in French . I just assumed that since France is literally next door they would also speak it My bad!

I also had to go to the police very recently. I was extremely stressed too, but I asked the cop if he spoke French (didn't ask about English). He said no, no, sorry, but would I be able to go on in German? My German is terrible but I decided to give it a try. He was extremely, extremely patient, spoke slowly, didn't mind my horrible grammar, and explained with simpler words whenever there was a hard word I didn't understand. I really appreciate how nice he was. Everything went super smoothly, not at all the horror story I had imagined when I walked in the building. And at the end, before I left, he asked me how long I had been here in CH, and told me I'd do alright with the German with time, that it would be probably much easier in a year or so. Bless him
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  #116  
Old 05.08.2011, 01:52
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

To the OP:

- Write a letter in German (get your husband or other German speaker to help) to the commandant of the Kreis (area) concerned setting out your concerns

- That you felt your attempt to report a crime was not taken seriously because of your (lack of) language abilities

- That you wish to report a crime

And send it by recorded delivery.

Cheers,
Nick
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  #117  
Old 05.08.2011, 02:09
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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My bag got stolen last night as I walked from the unispital to my car, the guy said something in German and just took it, for a moment I thought I had teleported to an estate in London, with all the rain and grey buildings around me I had to pinch myself "have I been mugged in Switzerland!??" after the initial shock, I realized I didn’t know what to do....should I call the police or what? my Londoner common sense told me to go home and cancel my cards and begin the mundane process of getting a new permit etc.

Anyway, thanks to the English forum I was established I needed to go to the police station and report it to get a new permit.

NOT a single police officer in ENGE police station could speak English!!!, I realise I live in Switzerland and I should speak German, however they had no English skill whatsoever!

I called the police station in Bahnhofquai and the police officer who did speak English told me I should learn German as Switzerland/Zurich is a German speaking city........REALLLLLLLLLLLly....my bag got stolen asshole thanks for the sympathy..... should I come back in a year or so! or do you want to fine me for not speaking German! (I didn’t say that ;( ...wish I did thou)

Basically im having a bit of a rant, I know I should speak German as I live here now, unfortunately it looks like it’s going to for a while as my husband is Swiss, but shouldn’t the police have some sort of basic English skills???? at least for tourist.....English is the communication language of the world...!

OUTCOME....I will learn German...I’ve resisted but its time....long live the queen (seeing as she’s German)....
> English may be the communication language of the world, but it is NOT the communication language of the Zürcher Stadtpolizei

Sorry for your experience anyway, I mean first getting robbed and then have to deal with those "Tschugger" on the same day is a bit much

And, in regard to languages, what is demanded of police-recruits is that they are able to make a report. English speakers among them can be found in the police stations of the airport, of Glattbrugg and of Zürich-Schwamendingen and Zürich-Oerlikon. In the Enge, people speak German

The one on the Bahnhofquai correctly feared that if he was too friendly to you, he had to take the matter over

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Sorry to hear about the bag, eggy, but I don't quite agree that everyone in the world in the public service areas should speak English. I assume (PURE speculation) that the average policeman only has to deal with someone who doesn't speak any German perhaps once a year. Why demand that police students speak English, when they live in a country with several other official languages ?

Your frustration is totally understandable, specially in a stressful situation like that, but most of us (expats) don't really expect to find English-skilled personnel everywhere around (perhaps specially me, leaving in the sticks in Eastern Switzerland...although that is also pure speculation).
Let's be clear about it. Also the City Police in Zurich is part of the Cantonal police forces. And the Canton of Zurich only has ONE official language and that is German. Police is NOT a union matter but strictly in the hands of the Cantons

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probably not but english is the international language of the world not german
"international language of the world" maybe, but what does this have to do with local police ? English is NOT the official language here

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I agree with the concept behind this comment. But the reality is there is a lot of english speakers in Zurich, and english is taught at the schools at a young age.

If there was a large german speaking population in the US and Germans was commonly taught in primary school, I could see a proper comparison.
Why should members of the police force here who are at odds with Zurich anyway, as they are NOT Zürcher, are better with English expats

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Funny they couldn't speak english there, because when one of my coworker had his car towed and had to go to Enge and pay something like CHF 500 in fines, they were fluent and knew all the technical terms to convince him he had to pay!

."
Good observation ! YES, most of those policemen at Zürich Enge station speak English perfectly well ! I cannot prove it, but know it.

A point is that the Unispital region is not in the area of the Enge police station.

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That is an excellent point, I apologize if I focused too much on the policemen lack of language skills. Obviously the point here is they didn't put an ounce of good intentions. Inexcusable.
Inexcusable maybe. But why should policemen who according to investigations of the Tages Anzeiger hate Zürich city dwellers love city-dwelling English speaking expats

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No, I expect one of a hundred cops at the police station to speak English. Most of tourists speak a little bit of English or one person in the group of tourists does speak English. Or there is a doubt that English is an international language used and studied globally the most? I am a very frequent traveler (over 100 flights per year). When I am in hotel or the airport of China, Algeria, Saudi Arabia or Cuba, I do ask my questions in English, not German.

And the argument that Italian or French police does not speak international languages is really lame. Sorry. I am kind of person that tries to make the world easier for travelers like me.
Your argument is zero. Why ? Because in the Greater Zurich area, between 30% and 60% of the policemen understand and speak some English. If they play the stubborn game, it does not prove your point, but only shows that my understanding of the pack unfortunately is correct ? And again, why should a police-force which DISlikes the locals, love English-speaking expats ?

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Last edited by Wollishofener; 05.08.2011 at 03:28.
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  #118  
Old 05.08.2011, 02:57
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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Inexcusable maybe. But why should policemen who according to investigations of the Tages Anzeiger hate Zürich city dwellers love city-dwelling English speaking expats
English, it's not the solution.
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  #119  
Old 05.08.2011, 02:59
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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Well, but I've heard Italians and French both complain that folks in Zurich don't speak either Italian or french so, I get the part that you can't learn every language, but this is why so many Europeans know at least some English, especially if they live in cities and/or work in certain industries, e.g. Airports, sea transport, etc. The point isn't the English-only, but that it is the common language of choice for so many. I also speak German, swedish and finnish, but my German apparently doesn't cut it and the chances of a Swiss knowing the others is nearly nil so, english is a useful language not only for it's popularity but also for it's forgiving nature in getting the meaning across, even for beginners mostly thanks to the pervasive use of English.

The cop wasn't only rude, he neglected his job.
Practically everybody here learns French in school (may be have forgotten) and quite many people here speak some Italian, not speaking of all those of Italian language origin. But while German speakers getting around in the Romandie generally do not ask in Geneva for a coffee in German, Romands have no hesitation to ask here for a coffee in French. This attitude is detested. The French speakers have to realize that war-time is a thing of the past.

Back to English. English in 100'000s of contacts is THE "language of choice" for people in Zurich and in Geneva when talking to each other. So that your argument above in this aspect is zero

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I wonder why swisscom do things in English as a 4th language if it sso unpopular and other languages are more widely spoken here
Who says that English is unpopular here ? YOU ??

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  #120  
Old 05.08.2011, 03:08
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Re: police with no english skills ;( !!!

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With all the huge respect to the Swiss people and country organization where everything works (slow or fast), I have to say that every hospital and police station absolutely must have English (major official international language) speaking personnel on duty 24/7. Because the price payable is life and security!

Lugano is the same. Noone speaks English eben in the main police station (5 floors big building). I was sent back home to study Italian once, so could not report the crime seen. However, they have provided an interpreter for the next day. Looking at the interpreter's car, he makes a good living
Please do NOT insult the health service personnel. I don't know about Lugano, but I can tell you that people in the Uni-Spital, the Triemli-Spital and the Waid-Spital in Zurich DO understand and speak English
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