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  #101  
Old 18.11.2010, 12:47
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

LOL - I agree that Swiss dialects do make things rather more, hmmm, complicated. Point taken.

Do you really think Londoners do make a huge effort with foreigners? I moved to London in 1970, no internet, expat forums, or the like of course. I had done some English at school - grammar and lit - hardly any oral/aural comprehension. I could have joined the Swiss Club for this or that, the Swiss Church, etc. Certainly had no money for lessons (my salary was 11.50 after tax and my digs with breakfast 6.50)! Just got on with it, made a total fool of myself - and slowly made a few friends, and it snowballed. People at work were friendly, but not ONE of them thought about inviting me for coffee or whatever, for a long time. Different situation, different days - but basically then or now, a new comer will reap what they sow, as an individual and as a group. In Geneva they've always had many foreigners because of the UN, Red Cross, etc. The number of UK/US people between Geneva and Lausanne has zoomed up to 17% within a very few short years. This is making it very difficult for the 'natives' to find accommodation and there is resentment in Geneva and now further afield, that -re-location agents have super deals with immobs, guaranteeing them 'first pick'. So new style 'ghettos' are being created- and I really feel that trying to speak with locals and intermix a bit would really help. It can only pay dividends, really.
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  #102  
Old 18.11.2010, 12:53
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

I totally agree with Carlos R. Many times I have encountered rudeness as soon as I open my mouth (maybe I should take the hint ) and that is when I speak to them in German. However, on the other hand I have also had sweet old ladies on the tram compliment me on my German. There are idiots everywhere I suppose.

My German is littered with Swiss words that I have picked up which can make people happy that I speak some of their language or annoyed as they don't know if they're coming or going!! I've been here 5 years, my grammar is atrocious, my vocabulary is limited and to make everything small I add "li" on the end of the word
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  #103  
Old 18.11.2010, 12:53
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

I think if you are just posted to Switzerland for a short time you are of a different mindset than if you've moved here forever and immediately got chucked into Swiss culture due to a Swiss partner.

For me there was no option but to get up to speed in German as soon as possible. We socialised with Swiss friends and I started work in a predominantly German-speaking company (I must have been mad).

If I'd only come over for a short assignment mixing the whole time with expats I would have relied on whatever language wreckage was left from my secondary school education and might have patted myself on the back for picking up a bit more but definitely wouldn't have beaten myself up for not becoming fluent.

If you are here for the long-term I think some effort should be made to speaka da lingo.

If nothing else, you build up some new acquaintances in the language classes.
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  #104  
Old 18.11.2010, 12:53
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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Do you really think Londoners do make a huge effort with foreigners?
Not especially. However, never having lived in London, can't really tell.

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I had done some English at school - grammar and lit - hardly any oral/aural comprehension.
Yes, but English is easy to learn

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...but basically then or now, a new comer will reap what they sow, as an individual and as a group.
Couldn't agree more. Personally, I would like to learn/speak more German, and I can communicate with most people well enough now. For sure it helps no end with the administration side of things, although small (or large) talk is beyond me. You should see some of the looks I get when I speak Swiss German in Berlin... An Englishman speaking German with French words (i.e. Merci) with a odd (i.e. Basler) accent... WTF!?

It is just that I spend 9 hrs a day at work (all English, no Swiss really needed), 8 hrs sleeping, leaving only 7 hrs for the rest of the day, and sorry, but doesn't leave enough time for non-essential activities, when you take into account, of those 7, I have at best 1-2 hrs a day to get anything else done.

EDIT: based on this, I'm not going to judge others for their level of D/F/I/R, although I will admire those who can *ahem* do it better than me
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Last edited by Carlos R; 18.11.2010 at 13:00. Reason: forgot conclusion!
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  #105  
Old 18.11.2010, 13:03
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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You should see some of the looks I get when I speak Swiss German in Berlin... An Englishman speaking German with French words (i.e. Merci) with a odd (i.e. Basler) accent... WTF!?
LOL! This happened to me recently on holiday in Spain. There was a German family from Berlin staying at the same hotel as us and they kept waving at my little girl. One day their daughter came to play with her by the water and started talking to me in German. Naturally I carried on the conversation in German too. We chatted for about ten minutes and then she went back to her parents.

As I walked past them a little later, the girl turned to her parents and said "I think something is wrong with that lady, her German was all muddled".

Later when they saw me wearing my Swiss football shirt for the World Cup, they came over and talked to me, later on admitting they only did so to hear the funny Swiss language. They were even more confused when I told them I was English so my German/Swiss German was crap anyway!!!
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  #106  
Old 18.11.2010, 13:10
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

if you speak english, then there is not much need of learning german or french in switzerland, as long as you live in the german or french part, in the "big" cities. at least on the german side, they love to practice their english with the foreigners and are not very keen on speaking high german. if you take a course, you will learn high german and go to the streets and hear every kind of swiss german. not helpful.

i learned the language because i can't stand to be in between swiss people and not know what are they talking about and also, l like to talk. so i also want to be able to say something but, as i said, with english, croatian/serbian and italian, you get around quite well
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  #107  
Old 18.11.2010, 13:14
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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Learning some German may actually be really helpful for your career, even in IT
My career doesn't need any help. I'm here precisely because they require English speakers.
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. To me, it is disrespectful not to make the effort to learn some of the language and culture of a country I visit, for weeks, months or years.
Agreed on the culture, but is Switzerland defined by high German? I don't think so.
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I'm not planning on taking over anything. Just not integrating.
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  #108  
Old 18.11.2010, 13:35
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

I'd like to point out that if you actually take a step back and don't let it stereotype itself Swiss German is actually easier then High German! There are far less rules, the article can often be dropped and there are so many dialects people can often not tell if you make a mistake.

In my opinion don't get hung up on whether you are speaking high or swiss German and just dive in. It makes life here a whole lot better.

Remember its just as difficult for non native English speakers to learn English. I really don't think its fair for us to expect locals to speak English just for us in their country.

In English speaking countries foreigners have to learn the language to have any chance of getting by. Its a bit hypocritical for us to come here and expect English to be used everywhere.
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Last edited by Eire; 18.11.2010 at 14:37.
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  #109  
Old 18.11.2010, 13:59
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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Remember its just as difficult for non native English speakers to learn English. I really don't think its fair for us to expect locals to speak English just for us in their country.
I don't think that's true, and non-native English speaking friends agree. They all say that English to a good conversational level is actually very easy, thanks to lack of gender, no verb/ noun declension, mostly regular pluralisation, etc. The only difficulty with English comes at a more advanced level, when trying to master the extensive vocabulary to get just the right word for a given situation, but that would be way beyond the level we're saying here that people should have in German or French.

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  #110  
Old 18.11.2010, 14:24
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

As a french native speaker who speak english and turkish fluently, I can tell you that german is very very difficult to learn. And this is said after I learn turkish, a language that as nothing in common with french beside some words pick in french vocabulary.

Just the german pronounciation is an exploit itself. krrrrrishctatdddiiiiddrrrrrr (that's the way it sounds to me)
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Old 18.11.2010, 14:25
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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I'd like to point out that if you actually take a step back and don't let it stereotype it Swiss German is actually easier then High German! There are far less rules, the article can often be dropped and there are so many dialects people can often not tell if you make a mistake.
I agree with the former but not the latter. Many Swiss I know love to discuss one another's dialects and will pick up on the most subtle of oddities and the more knowledgeable can even occasionally deduce the precise village somebody comes from.

The Swiss don't have that level of access to High German however, and if you make a mistake in High German they can't always tell whether it was a genuine mistake or some weird grammatical exception (the Swiss make plenty of mistakes themselves when speaking High German, and are unaware of some of the more eclectic exceptions and iregularities) or indeed whether it is some regional German dialect you are speaking (some Swiss ask me from which part of Germany I am)
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  #112  
Old 18.11.2010, 14:31
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

All these sentiments are fine, and perfectly legal.

But I have noticed that in Switzerland, knowing the language, or even the display of a pathetic attempt at learning it opens a lot of doors. There is an advantage to it, and it does affect the quality of one's experience when living here.
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  #113  
Old 18.11.2010, 14:54
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?


When we first moved here I was very determined to learn French. Having taken classes in school since I was a little girl (until age 15) I thought Id be speaking within 6 months. I travel to Bern everyday for work and at the office English is the official language. So no learning German, and since I live in Lausanne I prefer to learn French. But the 2.5 hours of travel, plus time at work surrounded by SG really doesn't leave me with anytime to go to classes.

In the first few months I was going to French classes 5 days a week, and was having to leave work early for them. It just ended up not being sustainable. I work primarily with my colleagues back in Ireland who are one hour behind. In addition, they have a later start time than normal (10am) so it just wasnt working for me to leave early and I was literally left with 1-2 hours a day to myself, and I just wanted to go to sleep!

I found another course and tried to stick with it, and indeed, I learned a lot and was one of the better ones in the class, most likely a mix of my childhood classes and me being fluent in Spanish now. However, what happened was that everyone I met in class was Spanish speaking, so no chance to practice French with my new friends. At home we speak either English or Spanish. Outside of the house, yes we can get by and order food, struggle at the Drs etc. DH does a much better job than I do (hes a native Spanish speaker) but I do alright and can manage.

But everywhere in Lausanne people speak Spanish!! It is incredible. And going for groceries or trying on shoes is pretty easy to struggle through with my basic French, but I still cringe at myself when I try to communicate, and the 10-15 minutes a week I spend having to speak French is really not enough to learn anything. Most of our friends are expats, and the Swiss among us speak English.

I am still determined to learn the language but I have absolutely no chance to practise. I now have a French friend who is helping me with learning, so hopefully Ill get beyond the level I am currently at. The difference for me is that I want to learn the language and I think it is a very useful language to have, even if we end up back in Latin America some day.
But this is my excuse why, after 7 months, I still dont speak French! And I am one who wants to!
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  #114  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:15
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

If I want to go to america I'll start learning english. If I want to go to Russia I'll do my best to try to learn russian. I came here 3 years ago. I learned german for 3months and now I'm also speaking swiss-german.
I think it would be nice to learn the language of the country you're going to..it doesnt matter if you're gonna be an au-pair or C.E.O! Sooo..I think there's no good excuse for not learning the language...it's just DO YOU WANT TO LEARN IT or NOT
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  #115  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:20
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

There's no really good excuse to not learn the language. But there are significant barriers especially when the majority of your day and job requires you to speak English. I've found that at work isn't the best place to practice.
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  #116  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:20
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

I stayed a few years in India and learned Gujarathi - just for the fun of it. I personally think languages belong to a culture and enrich your life at the specific country you are staying in.
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  #117  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:23
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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If I want to go to america I'll start learning english. If I want to go to Russia I'll do my best to try to learn russian. I came here 3 years ago. I learned german for 3months and now I'm also speaking swiss-german.
I think it would be nice to learn the language of the country you're going to..it doesnt matter if you're gonna be an au-pair or C.E.O!
Yes it does matter. As an au-pair, you have classes included in your schedule. As a CEO, you don't necessary have the time to do so.

And many of us came here not by choice but because it was the most logical move in our career or partner's career. We had the choice between 3 differents countries and Switzerland wasn't one of my choice but the best option for my husband's position. We are now planning our next move and depending what options we have, I will have the option to say No way for some and take the best options with the choices available.

After that, depending of the country, the language, the time on my hands and the energy available, I'll see if I can learn the language or not. If we move somewhere that we love and want to stay, I'll work hard to get fluent.
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  #118  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:26
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

I've been here 12 years; at first I made a concerted effort to learn German and to use it exclusively in everyday situations.

My standard German is functional but inelegant, and sadly at times littered with glossed-over grammatical mistakes. I am far better at the passive - reading and listening - than at the active - speaking and writing. On certain subjects I can almost reach fluency, but fall woefully down outside my comfort zone of pet topics. Unfortunately, outside the Hundeschule and running errands I have little opportunity to speak; neighborly chattiness beyond polite greetings and comments on the weather is really rather frowned upon. (Not to mention that in this corner of SZ standard German is as 'bad' as English.) I've been trying for years to improve my German, but without regular meaningful interaction with native speakers (because that is how I learn best) I just can't seem to climb to the next level.

Somewhere around the 8 or 10 year mark I stopped putting in so much effort. I realized that I was as integrated as my neighbors wanted me to be - that is, able to understand and follow the rules, and aware of my place. More is neither required nor encouraged. As far as my daily life goes, there really are few benefits to reaching real fluency - so I now invest my time and energy in other pursuits. (There was a great thread a while back on 'Disintegration' discussing this.)

Last edited by meloncollie; 19.11.2010 at 11:16.
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  #119  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:34
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

Best excuse for me is that after returning to my home country I will simply forget all the french (having no partner to practice with).

However I'm currently taking french lessons. Reason is very simple: I'm tired of asking my colleagues to help me with phone calls to different garages, taxi, doctor, etc. Now I can do it myself.
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  #120  
Old 18.11.2010, 15:39
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Re: Is there ever any good excuse for not learning the language?

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I don't think that's true, and non-native English speaking friends agree. They all say that English to a good conversational level is actually very easy, thanks to lack of gender, no verb/ noun declension, mostly regular pluralisation, etc. The only difficulty with English comes at a more advanced level, when trying to master the extensive vocabulary to get just the right word for a given situation, but that would be way beyond the level we're saying here that people should have in German or French.

kodokan
You are partially right, but I believe people also tend to forget all the strugle throughout the school years. Besides, most of us even in our home countries could hear English all the time: in songs, movies, on TV. It's not easy, it's only easier..particularly if your mother tongue belongs to a different language familiy/group with different syntax and sound system/phonology... But this is just my opinion.
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