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Old 27.11.2020, 20:40
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"Your German is not good enough..."

My son got this. He arrived in Switzerland aged 10, with no German. He got to secondary, having got the highest maths results in the canton, including a question no-one else solved. He went to Gym, and ended up with a masters in Physics from Basel University. Throughout that (University excepted), the refrain from a few teachers* "Your German is not good enough..."

My daughter rose from Real Schule to Secondär to Gym. Thence to a prestigious apprenticeship, BM, now studying for a degree in Pharmaceutical Engineering at the FHNW. Throughout that (FHNW excepted), the refrain from a few teachers* "Your German is not good enough..."

My other daughter, Secondär, FMS, (Got a degree at the Open University in French and German), C2 German from the Goethe institute, and now at an FH to gain a teaching qualification for Primary. throughout that (OU and Goethe Institute excepted), the refrain from a few teachers* "Your German is not good enough..."

In all cases, their German teachers have said "What? Your German is fine". Weird, huh? I wonder who is right? (The sad thing is, some of these people make decisions based on their unqualified opinion)

(Flameproof jacket donned. Go for it).
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Old 27.11.2020, 20:44
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

Wonder what isn’t good enough? I’d have thought they’d be fluent!? Sounds more like Xenophobia to me.
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Old 27.11.2020, 20:57
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

I don't think it's xenophobia. I'm not really sure what it is though.

It could have been worse. We could have stayed in England... Everywhere has its own challenges.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:02
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

My eldest (9) who was born here also gets this although his German was professionally assessed as being fine. I think a large part is the accent, he speaks English at home so will never have a guttural Swiss German accent.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:09
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

Probably it’s ignorance, fear of competition and insecurity, or both. I have been told “Your German is good” (whenever I excuse myself on occasions when speaking my kinda pidgin German interwoven with English words due to lack of knowledge of the right words at the right time). And my level is only B1/B2 max. Not even close to C2 required by the Unis standards.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:09
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

Was the problem oral or written German? I assume no highly specialized technical job require to be good at speaking, just writing.

But I understand. That's why I take a more or less cynical approach to language learning beyond the mother one: I'm never going to reach to the level of being good enough, ever. I will always make more grammar and orthography mistakes than the average elementary school children in their mother language. I will always have an accent. So? Focus on other stuff, in my case it's the technical one.

Hard to believe your son never answered I'm a physicist not writing engaging speeches for politicians. Same for your daughter: my thing is pharmaceutical eng., not a German literature professor.

I think the focus on languages on popular culture comes from the fact students are classified between gymnasium and trade school based on performance, and part of the performance is language. I think I'm a walking trigger of bad memories for all the people that wanted to go to gymnasium and university and could not because their German was not good enough. The listen to me talking or read an email from me and just wonder how the f*** I got accepted into university in first place.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:15
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

For context, first daughter got here age 4. Second age 6. They're fluent. With the first, she speaks dialect like a native - people don't know she wasn't born here. The other has an English accent if she's flustered or doesn't concentrate.

My son doesn't give a toss.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:54
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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My son doesn't give a toss.




great- but lol, what is his German like? (jesting)



Part of the issue here, as it would be in most of Europe- is that a good command of the language, be it oral, written or aural comprehension, and writing/grammar is essential for all students to go on to Gym- or University.


Whereas in England- post 16 Edu is so narrow and specialised- you can excel in A'Levels in Sciences, IT, Art, Design, etc- with 'just' a C at GCSE (end of school exam), and it it possible to re-take separately later if failed, whilst doing the 2 years of A'Level in chosen subjects only.


The daughter of a friend of mine, born and bred here, both Swiss parents and local to her school- failed her Matu because of 1/2 a point in maths- had to re-take the whole year. Got help with maths, and then failed ... for 1/2 point in German (French speaking area)- and that was that. Criminal I feel- especially as she wanted to study music. It took her years to get over this.
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Old 27.11.2020, 22:14
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

My two sons, who are born here, heard this all throughtout their school lives. Now that they are out in the working world of Switzerland and nobody knows that they have an English speaking parent and only speak English at home, all they hear is how good their German is and how outstanding their English is.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:18
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

I’m so sorry he had to hear that. I’ve been told the same thing and, unfortunately, I believed it.

With all the “foreigners” in Switzerland, schools are finding German fluency to be an increasing problem. I don’t know what the answer is but lack of fluency May effect your ability to get a job or attend further education.

My only suggestion would be to be persistent and ignore the naysayers for as long as possible. Also, increased reading in German as well as practicing writing will also help immensely.

Good luck!
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:24
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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My eldest (9) who was born here also gets this although his German was professionally assessed as being fine. I think a large part is the accent, he speaks English at home so will never have a guttural Swiss German accent.
I think some of it English. I think some of it could be that Swiss native speakers make a different category of errors, that don't quite jar as much. Although overall, the German is still pretty good. Remember - this is a minority of teachers, maybe 20-40%. By no means all.

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My only suggestion would be to be persistent and ignore the naysayers for as long as possible. Also, increased reading in German as well as practicing writing will also help immensely.
My second daughter was told the refrain by one of her professors, and retorted "I have C2 German from the Goethe Institute".... the professor was so apologetic, and began to consider other reasons for the perceived problem. (E.g. she gabbles under stress, regardless of language).

But yes, this is the strategy we've adopted. Challenge where necessary, always try to cooperate. And inform.

Funny thing - the second daughter is a published author in Switzerland... writing in German.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:19
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

I am also perpetually frustrated at how intolerant my francophone friends are with my French. Sometimes people I meet for the first time tell me that I speak with such a good accent it's only well into the conversation when they realize I'm not a native speaker. But my good friends have no shame in correcting my often not-quite-correct vowel sounds. "Bossie, it's not an e, it's an eeeuh." Or gender: "It's not un répétiton, it's une répétition. Seriously, to-may-to, to-mah-to. I'm a North American married to Brit and we have developed our own hybrid accent in the household. I have a pretty liberal attitude towards how many acceptable ways there are to pronounce vowels.


I work in English with almost exclusively non-native speakers with a large variety of accents and fluency, and some of the pronunciations I hear are interesting, but I always understand them and NEVER correct anyone unless they are so far off people might think they mean something else. I also don't care at all that they don't speak English perfectly.

Last edited by bossie; 27.11.2020 at 21:59.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:24
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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I don't think it's xenophobia. I'm not really sure what it is though.
Some people like to rub in their superiority with mother tongue

I don't think your kids cared ( I hope), despite all they made it so far. Congrats on their fantastic success. I don't think they needed the extra challenge from naysayers, but people do weird things..

What's gabble?
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Old 28.11.2020, 09:16
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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What's gabble?
It’s when somebody speaks so quickly that their individual words are indistinguishable from each other.

I would have thought that would be easy for the Germans, they put numerous words together to make a new non understandable word (to German learners) all the time!
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:27
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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...some of the pronunciations I hear are interesting...
I never got around to correcting my CIO when he said "that he tries hard to get his pronounce-iation correct" . because I started choking on my orange juice and had to leave the room.
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Old 28.11.2020, 00:57
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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I am also perpetually frustrated at how intolerant my francophone friends are with my French. Sometimes people I meet for the first time tell me that I speak with such a good accent it's only well into the conversation when they realize I'm not a native speaker. But my good friends have no shame in correcting my often not-quite-correct vowel sounds. "Bossie, it's not an e, it's an eeeuh." Or gender: "It's not un répétiton, it's une répétition. Seriously, to-may-to, to-mah-to. I'm a North American married to Brit and we have developed our own hybrid accent in the household. I have a pretty liberal attitude towards how many acceptable ways there are to pronounce vowels.

I work in English with almost exclusively non-native speakers with a large variety of accents and fluency, and some of the pronunciations I hear are interesting, but I always understand them and NEVER correct anyone unless they are so far off people might think they mean something else. I also don't care at all that they don't speak English perfectly.
Many expats are very accepting of non-native English speakers when they struggle with English. Agreed.
But would those non-native English speakers find the same level of acceptance if they were in the US or the UK?
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Old 28.11.2020, 08:45
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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great- but lol, what is his German like? (jesting)
Pretty much like this:
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Now that they are out in the working world of Switzerland and nobody knows that they have an English speaking parent and only speak English at home, all they hear is how good their German is and how outstanding their English is.
Also my first daughter speaks dialect so well, that people think she is native.

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Many expats are very accepting of non-native English speakers when they struggle with English. Agreed.
But would those non-native English speakers find the same level of acceptance if they were in the US or the UK?
Funnily enough, my wife came to the UK age 12, and sister (8). My brother in law (who was 15) speaks heavily accented stilted English (has a degree in Civil Engineering, and built roads). They never encountered such comments. Their command of English is excellent.

I do think the English as a language is more fault tolerant than German. No English person would have a problem with "book" pronounced "booook" instead of "buck". Or "marrrsk" instead of "mask". In German schwul and schwül are quite different things - I can never remember which is which, so I always say "feucht".

@bossie. Sorry to hear of your trouble with French. I learned french from age 10 to 15, and found it easy. We just learned the gender of nouns as we went along, and how the verbs went, and the usually minor modifications to adjectives with some adjustment of word order. I'm very rusty, but still speak French now. Fortunately, my francophone friends aren't actually French, and make more mistakes than I do! The issue I have with German isn't the noun gender, but that the articles changes according to case! As do nouns and adjectives. I speak German fluently, but I worry it's fluent gibberish.
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Old 28.11.2020, 09:03
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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Many expats are very accepting of non-native English speakers when they struggle with English. Agreed.
But would those non-native English speakers find the same level of acceptance if they were in the US or the UK?
Uhm.. yeah? I learned English and French in Canada. Average people in the workplace and University profs never gave me a hard time. Who did give me a hard time? The school teachers and even then, the non-English and non-French teachers. BTH, I think they start nitpicking if they hear or know it's not your first language.
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Old 02.12.2020, 13:35
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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Many expats are very accepting of non-native English speakers when they struggle with English. Agreed.
But would those non-native English speakers find the same level of acceptance if they were in the US or the UK?

it depends very much on the attitude of the non local language speaker- most people will be hugely patient if the person clearly shows that they want and are prepared to learn- or whether they show the kind of superiority imperialist attitude ŕ la 'why should I bother with your poncy language, everybody should speak English these days' some (and I say, some, not all) have been known to display. When someone has been here for many years and can't string a sentence together (grammatically correct or not) then patience can run thin. And honestly, I get it. Unless someone has a significant cognitive impairment- it's really a question of attitude and a bit of effort.


My OH had the chance to take over my granfather's magnificent home and become a GP here, after years of training and working in UK- but he chose not to as he felt he would not serve his patients well enough if he could not understand them fully, including local accents- nor respond in a fully fluent manner.
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Old 27.11.2020, 21:28
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Re: "Your German is not good enough..."

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That's why I take a more or less cynical approach to language learning beyond the mother one: I'm never going to reach to the level of being good enough, ever. I will always make more grammar and orthography mistakes than the average elementary school children in their mother language. I will always have an accent. So? Focus on other stuff, in my case it's the technical one.
The thing is, I think it is very possible/relativley easy for non-native anglophones to achieve something close to fluency in English. My boss is an adult learner of English and has never lived in an anglophone environment, but I don't hear him make a grammatical or "pronounce-iation" error that would raise one of my eyebrows more often than once a month. Ditto for many of my colleagues.

But I've given up on writing in French. I know every word I want to use, but I just can't be arsed to spend ages double-checking the gender of nouns I rarely use, or looking up verb conjugations that differ in orthography but not pronunciation. Waste. Of. My. Time.

Last edited by bossie; 27.11.2020 at 21:47.
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