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Old 24.09.2012, 02:03
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to speak or not to speak english...

Hi everyone!!

I am wondering if anyone else has the same experience has I.
My first language is not english nor french, however it's much easier for me to speake/write/joke/etc in english. At work I speak french, and only use english if I really need (I don't know the nam ein french or something similar).

During the time I've worked in international companies there was no problem, but now I work surrounded by french, swiss-french and swiss-germans... and It's a nightmare.

People show no interest or effort in listenning to the non-french-fluents. It's a relativelly young group of people, so they use a lot of french/swiss-french slang... 90% of the time when I ask what the word means they just ignore the question...

They actually look uninterested when they have to talk with you and listen to your non-perfect-french.

After work they actually refuse to speak english, even if they spend the day speaking in french

Recently I heard some comments from my boss saying that after xx time with them my french isn't getting any better. In addition it starts to be clear the advantages&trust given to a french/swiss-french in detriment of the non-fluent-french-speakers.


It's the first time people react in a bad way and I feel the language barrier after 8 years in Switzerland. Is this normal? should I just pack my stuff and move again to an international company?

Anyone else has the same experience?
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Old 24.09.2012, 02:17
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

Nope, Not me. It seems like you are making too much out of it. If you are there to work, just do your job only. The world does not revolve around the fact, whether of not someone is fluent in one language or not.
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Old 24.09.2012, 02:37
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

I agree that I am there for work that is probably the reason why this was never a problem for me. But... the working day includes lunches, small breakes, ...
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Old 24.09.2012, 07:49
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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The world does not revolve around the fact, whether of not someone is fluent in one language or not.
I disagree.
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Old 24.09.2012, 07:56
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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I agree that I am there for work that is probably the reason why this was never a problem for me. But... the working day includes lunches, small breakes, ...
I think the difference is that in an international company where there are several different fisrt languages, one language often becomes the preferred comunicative one - frequently ENglish, as it is often the maon second language.

BUt where the dominant fist language is something else, then that is the language that is going to be used. It's harder and requires more thinking to be expressive in a foreign language, so your colleagues use what comes naturally for them. ON break times, they just want to relax, which means not having to think harder to use the less familiar language.
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Old 24.09.2012, 08:42
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

Move to Zurich and work for a multinational. Ich kanna' nicht spechen ze lingo, Kein problem
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Old 24.09.2012, 08:43
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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Move to Zurich and work for a multinational. Ich kanna' nicht spechen ze lingo, Kein problem
Is that Scottish?
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Old 24.09.2012, 08:46
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

I learned my Scottish from Rab C Nessbit and me German from Victor book for boys. :-)
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Old 24.09.2012, 08:49
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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I learned my Scottish from Rab C Nessbit and me German from Victor book for boys. :-)
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Old 24.09.2012, 09:32
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

I forgot to mention that they see themselves has very international well they were all abroad in some part of their life

Swiss germans seem to be much worse with this stuff, and the swiss seem to have some language barriers for each side of switzerland (german, french, italian)...

However I have a few colleagues that don't speak any word of french and they knew this from the beginning, didn't made any recommendations, and after some years I "see" stuff and "hear" comments, all related to the language barrier and nationality. Althought you are there to work, you spend probably 70% of your day at work, so for me this kind of behaviour is contra productive. Besides part of their work is done in english and their level of english is good.

I don't want to look like another complaining bitch, but I just want't to know if it is a normal behaviour in switzerland.. I am lucky enought to have some freedom to move on
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Old 24.09.2012, 09:33
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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Move to Zurich and work for a multinational. Ich kanna' nicht spechen ze lingo, Kein problem
your germand writing skills are great!! ah ah
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Old 24.09.2012, 11:39
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

If you want to overcome the language issue, the best thing would be to completely immerge yourself in the French language (speaking French wherever you go, with everyone you know, reading the news/books in French, watching French television/movies).

It won't change the attitude of your co-workers towards English or towards people who don't speak French fluently, but it will make it easier for you to fit in.
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Old 24.09.2012, 12:07
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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I forgot to mention that they see themselves has very international well they were all abroad in some part of their life

Swiss germans seem to be much worse with this stuff, and the swiss seem to have some language barriers for each side of switzerland (german, french, italian)...

However I have a few colleagues that don't speak any word of french and they knew this from the beginning, didn't made any recommendations, and after some years I "see" stuff and "hear" comments, all related to the language barrier and nationality. Althought you are there to work, you spend probably 70% of your day at work, so for me this kind of behaviour is contra productive. Besides part of their work is done in english and their level of english is good.

I don't want to look like another complaining bitch, but I just want't to know if it is a normal behaviour in switzerland.. I am lucky enought to have some freedom to move on



I'll get my grandchild to explain to you how it works with language problems when you're in a foreign country.
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Old 24.09.2012, 12:22
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

Sorry I can't help with advice but I did have the same experience. I took a contract job for a BIG,BIG Swiss food company. Guess. I was told that the office was English speaking but after a few days, everyone switched to French, held meetings, lunches, etc. in French. I was mostly ignored. I decided after a week to quit as it would not have been beneficial to me to work in that environment as I wouldn't have been effective, or beneficial to the company. Sorry for your experience but I sympathize. It's not easy. People recommend to learn French, which I was doing, but business or idiomatic French is quite a different story.
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Old 24.09.2012, 12:30
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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I forgot to mention that they see themselves has very international well they were all abroad in some part of their life

Swiss germans seem to be much worse with this stuff, and the swiss seem to have some language barriers for each side of switzerland (german, french, italian)...

However I have a few colleagues that don't speak any word of french and they knew this from the beginning, didn't made any recommendations, and after some years I "see" stuff and "hear" comments, all related to the language barrier and nationality. Althought you are there to work, you spend probably 70% of your day at work, so for me this kind of behaviour is contra productive. Besides part of their work is done in english and their level of english is good.

I don't want to look like another complaining bitch, but I just want't to know if it is a normal behaviour in switzerland.. I am lucky enought to have some freedom to move on

Most likely, the Swiss-German folks who are keeping to speaking French at work do so to maintain their usage of French. It is similar at hubby's work where some speak English, some speak French, many are (of course) Swiss-German, some speak other languages - they are ALL encouraged to speak only German / Swiss-German at work as it helps the folks who are less fluent to learn more and learn better.

Although many of them share English-as-a-second-language (and some are English mother-tongue), it wouldn't help the ones who do not have good local language skills to let up on it. Does this help it make sense to you?

If you're missing out on speaking more English with other people (for whatever reason), join up (or create) some hobby / free time activities with other English speaking folks. (Although from the sound of it, getting into some activities with some more locals will probably help you with slang and such too)
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Old 24.09.2012, 22:33
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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Hi everyone!!

I am wondering if anyone else has the same experience has I.
My first language is not english nor french, however it's much easier for me to speake/write/joke/etc in english. At work I speak french, and only use english if I really need (I don't know the nam ein french or something similar).

During the time I've worked in international companies there was no problem, but now I work surrounded by french, swiss-french and swiss-germans... and It's a nightmare.

People show no interest or effort in listenning to the non-french-fluents. It's a relativelly young group of people, so they use a lot of french/swiss-french slang... 90% of the time when I ask what the word means they just ignore the question...

They actually look uninterested when they have to talk with you and listen to your non-perfect-french.

After work they actually refuse to speak english, even if they spend the day speaking in french

Recently I heard some comments from my boss saying that after xx time with them my french isn't getting any better. In addition it starts to be clear the advantages&trust given to a french/swiss-french in detriment of the non-fluent-french-speakers.


It's the first time people react in a bad way and I feel the language barrier after 8 years in Switzerland. Is this normal? should I just pack my stuff and move again to an international company?

Anyone else has the same experience?
The Romands detest to be dominated by German-speakers, English-speakers and Arabic speakers and so after work insist on speaking in French. And I well remember that in the household of my Godfather in Rue François Grast 18 in 1208 G... the general languages were Swiss German, Standard German and Hungarian, but when cooking, the two ladies, the aunt and my cousin, spoke French. When meeting relatives in the Romandie, when speaking about drinking, eating, cooking you speak French, when speaking about politics you speak German and when speaking about international matters you speak English.

Change over to Zürich or Basel or Luzern. The advantage will be that you meet people who are the majority in CH and love to speak English after work
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Old 24.09.2012, 22:47
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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The Romands detest to be dominated by German-speakers, English-speakers and Arabic speakers and so after work insist on speaking in French. And I well remember that in the household of my Godfather in Rue François Grast 18 in 1208 G... the general languages were Swiss German, Standard German and Hungarian, but when cooking, the two ladies, the aunt and my cousin, spoke French. When meeting relatives in the Romandie, when speaking about drinking, eating, cooking you speak French, when speaking about politics you speak German and when speaking about international matters you speak English.

Change over to Zürich or Basel or Luzern. The advantage will be that you meet people who are the majority in CH and love to speak English after work
Wolli as usual you're full of sh!t.
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Old 24.09.2012, 22:54
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Re: to speak or not to speak english...

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Hi everyone!!

I am wondering if anyone else has the same experience has I.
My first language is not english nor french, however it's much easier for me to speake/write/joke/etc in english. At work I speak french, and only use english if I really need (I don't know the nam ein french or something similar).

During the time I've worked in international companies there was no problem, but now I work surrounded by french, swiss-french and swiss-germans... and It's a nightmare.

People show no interest or effort in listenning to the non-french-fluents. It's a relativelly young group of people, so they use a lot of french/swiss-french slang... 90% of the time when I ask what the word means they just ignore the question...

They actually look uninterested when they have to talk with you and listen to your non-perfect-french.

After work they actually refuse to speak english, even if they spend the day speaking in french

Recently I heard some comments from my boss saying that after xx time with them my french isn't getting any better. In addition it starts to be clear the advantages&trust given to a french/swiss-french in detriment of the non-fluent-french-speakers.


It's the first time people react in a bad way and I feel the language barrier after 8 years in Switzerland. Is this normal? should I just pack my stuff and move again to an international company?

Anyone else has the same experience?
I feel your pain
Indeed it sounds very familiar to me: first weeks at work, all about enthusiasm.
One day dispatched a sound "Gruezi mitenand" at the cafeteria to a group of young local folks. Only to be given the weird look. I just wanted the ground to open so I could jump in
Just give them some time and take it easy. Mind your own business for a while and be yourself. Eventually you'll blend in
Best of luck to you.
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