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Old 22.06.2011, 16:27
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Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

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Have a look to the link here bellow:
http://www.bilinguisme.ch/CMS/default.asp?ID=1853
This reminded me that the town I think of as Bienne is in fact Biel/Bienne, more germanophone than francophone. I speak zero German, and will be spending a week there this summer. How well will I be able to communicate in French?

Not a major worry; I spent a week in each of Saas Fee, Mürren and Brig, all 100% germanophone, last summer. Still, I enjoy the ability to exchange a few comments about the weather while shopping!
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Old 22.06.2011, 17:07
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

Biel-Bienne is, I believe, one of the best place to practice your French as people are used to "non-perfect" French, you do not feel any pressure and can freely give it a try.
Moreover because of the 2 languages culture, this is one of the only place where people will answer in German ( and not in Swiss German) if you address them in German.
Bilingualism is a reality, in almost all shop or restaurant people speak the 2 languages. I lived in the Brussels ( also official 2 languages) and there’s no comparison! I have plenty of French friends who do not speak German and (beside for finding a job) they manage everything in French.
I usually adapt to the person so that I can also maintain some kind of level in German.
The rate would be something like 30% French, 60% German and 10% others.
I wish you a very nice week in Bienne, you’ll tell me if I was right?
Cheers
Sandrine
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Old 22.06.2011, 17:16
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

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How well will I be able to communicate in French?
Something between very well and extreemly well. I treat them as Romands because I don't want to hear Bärndüütsch. They speak slowly but perfectly French.
You may have though some people avoiding staying around you if you speak French... political issues are very very hot. But in services, you won't notice.
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Old 22.06.2011, 20:30
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

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You may have though some people avoiding staying around you if you speak French... political issues are very very hot.
La question jurassienne is alive and well (or should it be ):
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Les milieux séparatistes (partisans du rattachement du Jura bernois actuel au canton du Jura) estiment que le conflit n'est pas encore résolu.
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Old 22.06.2011, 20:34
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

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La question jurassienne is alive and well (or should it be ):

Errr.... Biel is not part of the Jura
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Old 22.06.2011, 20:49
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

And herein lies the problem, for many. Many of the French speaking people there would rather be part of the new(ish) Canton of Jura, then remain part of Bern (for linguistic, cultural, historical and, for some, religious reasons. In many ways, a link can be made with the situation in Ireland.
When the area of the current Jura K/Canton was 'given' to Bern in exchange for the loss of Vaud- the Bernese came to 'colonize' the area. The protestant religion was imposed on the native Catholics, and Barntutsch imposed in all areas of the Law, Government and education. Many Bernese families could not speak any French even after many generations. The Jurassiens felt a bit like the Saxons after the Norman Conquest.

By the way, the term 'Jura' is very confusing. It is primarily a mountain chain, which starts in France and crosses most of Switzerland to Basel approx. But also a French Departement, and a Swiss K/Canton. I live in the Jura in Neuchatel C/Kanton, some do so in Vaud, or in Bern/e, some live in the Jura in France, but in Franche-Comté. It is also the name of the cheese made in the Jura mountains which is very similar to Gruyères (and which is called Comté) on the other side of the border.

Last edited by Odile; 22.06.2011 at 21:14.
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Old 22.06.2011, 22:17
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

Actually, I was not making that point. There is no real discussion about whether Biel should be a part of unified Jura.

2/3 of Bielers are Swiss germans. So the question is more what should be done for the french speaking minority in Biel in that case.
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Old 22.06.2011, 22:25
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

Are we discussing Bernese Jura ? Thanks for a sign from a Moderator.

Main line: If the French speakers can be a minority in Bern now, the German speaking Bielers can become the German speaking minority of the Canton. If the vote is done city by city independently (most probably approach) then Biel will stay Bernese. The real battle will be Moutier. And Grenchen is probably lost for the Romands.

In my optimism, I must confess that I omitted to say that there are younger German speaking Bieler who have a quite basic French (was that diplomatic enough?) - but they are not my Publikum/public. But the Bieler I know are very proud in their modest way of a peaceful bilingualism and quite some language exchange (almost unic in the country).
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Old 22.06.2011, 22:38
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

You are right Faltrad, we are digressing If you come to Biel (or is it Bienne) do tell us so we could meet up for a bottle of local vino and discuss said Jura. (born and raised in NE, but my dad was of good Jurassien (ex Huguenot!) stock, so I am officially a Jurassienne). I have several very good friends from Biel, all of Bernese stock btw.
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Old 22.06.2011, 22:56
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

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Main line: If the French speakers can be a minority in Bern now, the German speaking Bielers can become the German speaking minority of the Canton. If the vote is done city by city independently (most probably approach) then Biel will stay Bernese. The real battle will be Moutier. And Grenchen is probably lost for the Romands.
That is quite right. The vote will most certainly be by commune. The funny thing is that in the rest of Bern at least the younger ones would not have a big problem with unified Jura.

The thing is, there will (very probably) be no vote for Biel.

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In my optimism, I must confess that I omitted to say that there are younger German speaking Bieler who have a quite basic French (was that diplomatic enough?) - but they are not my Publikum/public. But the Bieler I know are very proud in their modest way of a peaceful bilingualism and quite some language exchange (almost unic in the country).
The bilingualism is certainly much more relaxed than in Fribourg. I always liked that very much, having one guy talking to another in French and the other one replying in Swiss German, all very naturally.
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Old 25.06.2011, 08:36
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

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The bilingualism is certainly much more relaxed than in Fribourg. I always liked that very much, having one guy talking to another in French and the other one replying in Swiss German, all very naturally.
Yep, I've heard a lot about the incredible bilingual culture of Biel/Bienne and I'm quite interested in going and seeing it for myself. My current experience is limited to changing trains (from one ICN to the other) and buying bread from the Coop at the station (I was curious to see what language I would be greeted in. "Gruezi" ).
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Old 02.04.2021, 18:58
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

I was reading an article that said in 20 years percentage of French speakers grew from 28 to 43 in Biel/Bienne. Is the city going through a language shift and eventually French speakers will be in majority? I was reading somewhere else that Fribourg was initially a mostly German speaking city too.
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Old 02.04.2021, 19:24
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Re: Bilingualism in Biel/Bienne

I hope so.
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