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Old 17.06.2011, 15:18
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Multilingual [learn local language or not]

What percentage of native English speaking expats learn to speak the local language (let's not split hairs between variants like Swiss German and High German) completely fluently ? I would guess less than 10%. What do you people think ?

I work full time in German without any problems. I have done the same in other languages. Am I that unusual ?

Once I overheard someone saying to a shop assistant that there is no reason to learn the local language because everyone speaks English. Similarly some of the comments I read on EF go in the same direction.
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Old 17.06.2011, 15:26
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Re: Multilingual

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Once I overheard someone saying to a shop assistant that there is no reason to learn the local language because everyone speaks English. Similarly some of the comments I read on EF go in the same direction.
As I noted on another thread, you can, by and large, survive on English alone, but learning the local language makes life both easier and pleasanter. I would guess that that is, more or less, the EF consensus.
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Old 17.06.2011, 15:32
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Re: Multilingual

I would agree with RetiredinNH, other than to add that it depends largely on your aspirations. Many seem to see Switzerland as a stop on the expat trail, a pleasant interlude before moving on to the next station, and particularly for those with large organisations and/or based in Geneva/Zurich I am sure it is quite possible to have a pleasant life with only other expats for friends.

That was not my idea of coming to Switzerland though - I want to meet the people as well as just enjoying the countryside - and for that learning the language is imperative. From many of the comments on here I know I am not the only one.

I wouldn't like to guess the proportional split between those two broad camps though.
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Old 17.06.2011, 15:38
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Re: Multilingual

I actually lived in Germany for some years before coming here and maybe that made things easier for me as High German is easier to pick up when you're not doing Swiss German in parallel.

I don't have many expats among my friends and indeed the first couple of years that I lived here didn't know any at all so I suppose that made it easier for me to learn local ways and integrate. Without having something like the EF to run to every time I was in doubt also taught me to learn to stand on my own feet and work things out for myself, which wasn't always fun at the time but in the long run I don't regret having done it.
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Old 17.06.2011, 18:06
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Re: Multilingual

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Am I that unusual ?
No.

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Once I overheard someone saying to a shop assistant that there is no reason to learn the local language because everyone speaks English. Similarly some of the comments I read on EF go in the same direction.
Also agree with Retired & GS...
We've done this topic already it's literally 4000 pages long. Actually I think we've literally covered all topics by now.

Whether you learn the local language or not is very much determined by each individual's circumstances.
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Old 17.06.2011, 18:08
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Re: Multilingual

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Actually I think we've literally covered all topics by now.
No, we still don't have The Question. You know, the one who's answer is 42.
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Old 19.06.2011, 11:06
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Re: Multilingual

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No.



Also agree with Retired & GS...
We've done this topic already it's literally 4000 pages long. Actually I think we've literally covered all topics by now.

Whether you learn the local language or not is very much determined by each individual's circumstances.

By "literally" do you really mean "literally" ?

I haven't read all topics and I don't see why we can't revisit previous themes.

If I may, I disagree that circumstances determine whether someone learns a language or not. Circumstances do have an influence but we make our own choices in life and we decide whether or not to put the effort in. So someone in unfavourable circumstances might overcome the situation and learn anyway, whereas another might never learn the language despite quite favourable circumstances.
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Old 19.06.2011, 11:13
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Re: Multilingual

It depends where you live..Here, in a small town, close to Geneva, you can surely survive on English only. But, if things break, you need to call a doc and get through the assistant, talking to the regie, school for kids and day care, write letter and get a decent job, complain, get a decent service or claim something, your quality of life is 100% and painless, somewhat, if you do learn the local language. French, I mean.

I would have done it anyways, even if I worked in an international place, or put my kiddo in the international school. You don't want to bug your buddies to translate for you all the time, or use the tiring and a little humiliating sign language.

It's my personal stand, though, I know some other people who move in are here only for a short time, or might not be good with languages, etc etc.
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Old 19.06.2011, 11:54
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

One can surely survive speaking English only but the question is: Is it enjoyable to be surrounded by people having conversations about something in their language and how does it feel being alienated from these? It makes so much difference if you can order meal in the restaurant, utter few words in local language, strike a short conversation and greet your neighbours chatting about the weather.
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Old 19.06.2011, 12:48
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

Just come back from the South-East tip of Tuscany, the only bit which is very non-touristy - very few speak English there. It is amazing how quickly they warm up to you and make you feel welcome if you try to speak Italian, even if you make a pig's ear of it. If it makes so much difference when you are just on holiday- it must make a huge difference when you actually live there.
I do find it ironical when people say 'I can't be asked (my sp.) to speak the linguo. Oh btw the locals are not very friendly!. CQFD.
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Old 19.06.2011, 13:00
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Re: Multilingual

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By "literally" do you really mean "literally" ?

I haven't read all topics and I don't see why we can't revisit previous themes.

If I may, I disagree that circumstances determine whether someone learns a language or not. Circumstances do have an influence but we make our own choices in life and we decide whether or not to put the effort in. So someone in unfavourable circumstances might overcome the situation and learn anyway, whereas another might never learn the language despite quite favourable circumstances.
But our inclination "to put the effort in" is a reflection of our personalities, and our previous history in language learning, and so on, which form part of those circumstances, along with external factors. So it is all to do with circumstances. And it is those circumstances that determine what sort of attitude you have to learning the language.

In short, we don't always make our own choices. They are largely made for us by a combination of external circumstances and 'internal circumstances'.

Does it matter, anyway?
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Old 19.06.2011, 13:01
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

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'I can't be asked (my sp.) to speak the linguo. Oh btw the locals are not very friendly!. CQFD.
Very good point made in the post but please can we have fewer abbreviations. There are a lot of folk on here who cannot understand them.
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Old 19.06.2011, 13:09
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

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Very good point made in the post but please can we have fewer abbreviations. There are a lot of folk on here who cannot understand them.
OK.

Whoops - Okay.
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Old 19.06.2011, 13:38
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

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Very good point made in the post but please can we have fewer abbreviations. There are a lot of folk on here who cannot understand them.
EDIT: This post is NOT for Longbyt who obviously don't need it but for the
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lot of folk on here who cannot understand them
. Not understanding seems to me reasonnably solved by translating. But maybe that's just me, I don't know how
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folk on here who can't understand
tick.



CQFD: Ce qu'il fallait démontrer
French version of the classic formula in latin: Quod erat demonstrandum.

Last edited by Faltrad; 19.06.2011 at 13:59.
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Old 19.06.2011, 13:51
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

I didn't say that I needed a translation. I requested that we have fewer abbreviations which not all members understand.
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Old 19.06.2011, 14:18
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

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Not understanding seems to me reasonnably solved by translating. But maybe that's just me, I don't know how tick.

This would be fine if the OP gave the translation but someone who doesn't understand txt spk, Latin, French or Hebrew shouldn't have to hope that someone with this 'extra' knowledge will come along and post the translation or an explanation.
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Old 19.06.2011, 16:43
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Re: Multilingual [learn local language or not]

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Just come back from the South-East tip of Tuscany, the only bit which is very non-touristy - very few speak English there. It is amazing how quickly they warm up to you and make you feel welcome if you try to speak Italian, even if you make a pig's ear of it.
Isn't that true everywhere? Even inside the UK going to places such as Glasgow or Newcastle you will come across as a bit of a twat, not to mention running into the odd communication problem, if you think "English" is good enough and condescend those who don't speak it.
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Old 19.06.2011, 17:22
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Re: Multilingual

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I would agree with RetiredinNH, other than to add that it depends largely on your aspirations. Many seem to see Switzerland as a stop on the expat trail, a pleasant interlude before moving on to the next station, and particularly for those with large organisations and/or based in Geneva/Zurich I am sure it is quite possible to have a pleasant life with only other expats for friends.

That was not my idea of coming to Switzerland though - I want to meet the people as well as just enjoying the countryside - and for that learning the language is imperative. From many of the comments on here I know I am not the only one.

I wouldn't like to guess the proportional split between those two broad camps though.
To learn another language, even if it just is for a holidays-visit, is not just a challenge, but an ENRICHMENT and a gain for YOU.
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Old 19.06.2011, 23:40
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Re: Multilingual

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To learn another language, even if it just is for a holidays-visit, is not just a challenge, but an ENRICHMENT and a gain for YOU.
Unless you go to Prague. Czech is so crazy, that if one goes for holiday, you are happy if you manage to say "pivo" and "jeste jedno" (beer, one more), ignore the dozens of declensions of the same words.

I think it depends. There are laguages that are easy to pick up, like Italian for a French speaker, or German for an English speaker. But try to go to Tibet, or Estonia or Poland. So, effort is effort, sure, but I think cashiers in a mall in Prague will appreciate some kind of nice smile, not necessarily tourist small talk in Czech, since nobody really expect it. It's annoying since I am a Czech teacher, too, but voila. It's difficult.

I like the confidence and attitude of a multilingual nation that expect all people to have similar ease with stuff, it is really inspiring. It's not always so automatic, though.
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Old 20.06.2011, 02:15
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Re: Multilingual

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Unless you go to Prague. Czech is so crazy, that if one goes for holiday, you are happy if you manage to say "pivo" and "jeste jedno" (beer, one more), ignore the dozens of declensions of the same words.

I think it depends. There are laguages that are easy to pick up, like Italian for a French speaker, or German for an English speaker. But try to go to Tibet, or Estonia or Poland. So, effort is effort, sure, but I think cashiers in a mall in Prague will appreciate some kind of nice smile, not necessarily tourist small talk in Czech, since nobody really expect it. It's annoying since I am a Czech teacher, too, but voila. It's difficult.

I like the confidence and attitude of a multilingual nation that expect all people to have similar ease with stuff, it is really inspiring. It's not always so automatic, though.
On a visit to Prague, it was in 1991, I made the experience that almost everybody spoke German remarkably well. And yes, with languages it depends on the language in question and you yourself. I always find Spanish fairly easy even if I never really learnt it, but Portuguese rather difficult. In Turkish, when trying some words in Turkish I tend to pronounce the Arab way, which they do not like at all. And as German is spoken by so many Turks in so many places so excellently, no problem. Greek is a language which is not mine, but as so many Greeks speak English, no problem. Hebrew is relatively easy, except that many words in Hebrew have quite a different meaning from the same word in Arabic, which irritate. But as virtually all Israelis speak English and amazingly many German, this also is no problem. Interesting was, when I had to make phone-calls to Argentina, the questions "do you speak English" "parlez-vous Français" lead to nowhere, but "parliate Italiano" had quite a positive result fairly often.
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