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  #41  
Old 24.02.2012, 16:50
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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I'd love to meet these Irish speakers because of the people I know I could count on one hand how many would be able to hold a proper conversation in Irish...and this was when they left school! I don't just mean a couple of words. If you consider that irish is mandatory from age 5 till 18 this is shocking. Irish is taught very very badly in Ireland though. English too to be fair, far too much focus on literature and not enough on the basics.
I agree, anyone who says most irish people are conversational in irish is frankly living in a dream world of leprechauns . One thing I have noticed is how good the Swiss are at English becuase they work so hard at it. Lots of people (in Zug granted) seems to take lessons, attend night courses and have spent time working or studying abroad. They really work hard at it , which is more than most people do at Irish ( unsurprisingly). I think that's the difference at the end of the day.
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  #42  
Old 24.02.2012, 17:28
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

The quality isn't quite what it should be, but at least they are trying to find a way. I'd be curious to know how the US scored on teaching foreign languages, same for France.
Let's hope they don't procrastinate too long in changing their tactics now that there is a study pointing out how ineffective that is... seems that every other year, my kids' teachers get to take 5 weeks time in an Anglo Saxon country (on top of regular holidays)... I want to be a teacher too!
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  #43  
Old 24.02.2012, 17:50
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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i do not mean to sound snarcy when i say this, but, doesnt irish count? most of the irish i know (granted not thaaaaat many) speak at least, uh, decent / conversational irish in addition to english.

and the only person ive ever met who has completely mastered the oberbayerisch dialect of german who wasnt a native german speaker was also irish.
I think it really depends who you meet! I'd have to say that most of the Irish people I know are well fluent in Irish - then again I met them mostly in Irish-language settings so they would, wouldn't they? Same goes if you spend all your holidays on the Aran Islands or somewhere, or maybe have relatives or in-laws who live in the Gaeltacht or are great enthusiasts.

It's also hard to tell as a non-speaker of a language whether people are truly spontaneously "conversational" in it or just remembering some canned sentences from school. (Which, hey, if you can have a conversation with 'em...)

Most Irish people's Irish is better than my French, put it that way, but not altogether the level you'd hope from 5 years of schooling let alone 12. So yeah, perhaps not the shining model for Switzerland to emulate.
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  #44  
Old 24.02.2012, 17:58
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

There is of course a big rural/town divide. Around here in the sticks, the proportion of those who speak English at a fair level are very few indeed. One is my OH from Surrey, and another a British lady from Herts and her Swiss husband. Then one girl who spent a year as an Au Pair in OZ, and me of course, I get by. Most people here will speak some German or Swiss German though.
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  #45  
Old 24.02.2012, 18:39
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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I don't see any evidence that the language skills in those parts of the country are worse.

On the contrary. The average Ticinese speaks way better German than the average Zürcher manages Italian.
Yes, but in general their English isn't very good, also true of Italians, though it's certainly improved in the past 22 years I've been living down here.

I've got one friend from Verona, known him since '88, he now speaks some passable English, but mainly because he has a lot of Russian clients and he doesn't speak Russian (he's a lawyer).

In the old days, we had to use his then-wife as a translator, as she was a French-speaking Belgian, and I speak French, but now my Italian is fine, thanks to my current wife who speaks no English!

Tom
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  #46  
Old 24.02.2012, 19:53
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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Like you said, most Finns I know are fluent in Finnish, Swedish, English, and something else, typically. Cool and extremely bright people.
In Finland our second language is Swedish, although most of the people here forgets/wants to forget that after the first courses. Hot topic in politics at Finland is getting rid of Swedish, but it will never happen Most of the Finnish people writes pretty good english, but speaking is different thing. I am lacking pretty much on both of those
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Old 24.02.2012, 20:27
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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so who wants to hire me? ;-P

Secondary Education Degree + B1 German, probably by August B2 or C1 with a Graduate Certificate in English Teaching.
Everyone will, once you have your education recognized officially in this country and hold at least B2 in one of the local languages. You will not get a primary school post, maybe not a secondary, or any post that is expected to mix specialization (teaching a few subjects), but you could become specialized English teacher to fill in the gaps "generalists" can't teach, or easily in many language schools.
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  #48  
Old 24.02.2012, 20:32
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

Having worked many years (since the late '90s) with Swedes and Norwegians (and being married to a half-Norwegian) both here and on their home turf, I've yet to meet one who speaks the other's language.

As was explained to me, they each speak their own, and hope the other understands, as they are close, but if that fails, they switch to English!

And that's how things work here in Ticino, each speaks their dialect, hoping the other understands, and if that fails, they switch to Italian.

Tom
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  #49  
Old 24.02.2012, 20:34
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

What is so tragic, both here in CH and in France, that the oral element of language teaching is practically zilch. Grammar and loads of vocab lists- hardly conducive to getting kids interested. In the UK all 4 skills (listening and reading comp, writing and oral) all have equal value.

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Old 25.02.2012, 00:14
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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I haven't been in a country where people would speak languages of different families as well as here, yet considered themselves mere "intermediates". I am not too worried about English in here, by the time kids are teens they speak it well, for most parts, or the other languages they picked that are being offered in schools here. My German is subpar now to my French, so when I am in the German speaking part now, everyone immediately assumes I am a French speaking Swiss who speaks bad German so everyone immediately switches to English. It's impressive.

By the way, it is not a question on how early English gets introduced into primary. It is a question of are there really enough local and good English teachers in the system who could teach it. So, why attack the problem at the end of the algorithm, when it really needs to be addressed at the Haute Ecoles Pedagogiques, are there courses, are there profs, is it compulsory, how split does it make the generalists/specialists system, are those signing up for language/humanities specialization for secondary pushed also for English, or...It's more complicated than just introducing a language into the school. Somebody has to teach it. And well.
I was just one of the Zurich voters who, against the suggestions of the Cantonal government, voted in favour of new proposals in favour of English. I think I am not the only one of them who clearly realized that a lot of our teachers were miles away from "being up to the job". I and 100 thousands others were fully aware of the facts above, but we all knew that it HAD to be done. In view of realities, rank 11 is not so bad, and I think it is rank 11 out of more than 20. Who t.f. thinks that Switzerland has a subscription to ranks 1 to 10 ? I mean, Swiss TV announcers do not hesitate to say "skier A.... B.... arrived at the excellent 14th rank" but apparently have a problem to say "Switzerland got the top excellent 11th rank out of 24" Add to this that they asked the "adult population" which means lot of people who like me only started to learn English a bit in class NINE and not before. And in our class we were lucky. Our teacher did not have any Cambridge Exams, but he was a real Anglophile who spent up to three weeks per year on vacation in England, And a charismatic teacher who had the ability to inspire folks. This for sure was not the fate of everybody !
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  #51  
Old 25.02.2012, 00:24
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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In Finland our second language is Swedish, although most of the people here forgets/wants to forget that after the first courses. Hot topic in politics at Finland is getting rid of Swedish, but it will never happen Most of the Finnish people writes pretty good english, but speaking is different thing. I am lacking pretty much on both of those
Be aware of what you wish for, it might be replaced with Russian..
Kidding. The Finns speak English quite well, using a lovely "s" when the sound should be like "sh" as their trademark, or so I noticed.
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  #52  
Old 25.02.2012, 00:29
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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On the contrary. The average Ticinese speaks way better German than the average Zürcher manages Italian.
That may be because the average Ticinese NEEDS to know German much more than the average Zürcher needs to know Italian. (Somebody correct me if I am wrong.)
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Old 25.02.2012, 00:40
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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What is so tragic, both here in CH and in France, that the oral element of language teaching is practically zilch. Grammar and loads of vocab lists- hardly conducive to getting kids interested. In the UK all 4 skills (listening and reading comp, writing and oral) all have equal value.
Tragic ? To me it back in October 1971, was really GOOD LUCK. I in spite of facing the final exams of apprenticeship decided in favour of taking holidays in the form of a holiday trip to Brussels, London, Dublin, London and Paris, and so right then improved my ORAL command of French and English. When entering the "examining room" of the Englishmen (Swiss people of course) I simply greeted them by "Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen" and spoke/discussed about my holidays. They were impressed and gave me the maximum-note of 5.5. Next day in the morning when entering the "examining room" of the French (Swiss people again) I greeted them "Bonjour mesdames et messieurs" and discussed my holidays with them and got another 5.5. THIS saved me and so I passed with a 4.2 (min 4.0) in spite of the disastrous 2.0 in stenography. The details of that memorable holiday trip are still in my mind as if it had been just last week.
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Old 25.02.2012, 02:33
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

I don't live in Switzerland, so I can't really comment on this country with the same knowledge that you do---but I can ask questions. The question I have is this---is this really that big of a problem for Switzerland?

Clearly if the Swiss genuinely believe that every Swiss citizen should be as fluent in English as their native canton's language, or most of the members of this forum, they have a lot of catching up to do. But the native languages of Switzerland---German, French, and Italian---are very useful in Europe and enable most Swiss to travel a good deal outside their country without needing English. Also, I can't argue with Swiss who would say it is more important to learn at least one of their fellow countrymen's languages before learning an outside language---no matter how useful that language is.

While there is a very real language barrier that exists for English speakers who come to Switzerland, there are many Swiss who do speak English, particularly in the larger cities which have a lot of workers and visitors from many different countries. Yes, there are places like Schwyz where nobody speaks anything other than the local Swiss-German dialect. Obviously, the people in Schwyz don't think there is a problem with this. (In fairness to them, there are probably more Swiss who speak English in Schwyz than Americans who speak German in Derwood.) If they DID feel there was a problem, they would probably go about learning English for the same reason why Swiss in Ticino learn German---because they need to.

Does Switzerland NEED more English-speaking Swiss, or is this like an extra car in the garage---something nice to have, but not absolutely necessary?
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  #55  
Old 25.02.2012, 07:37
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

There is also another story that is not in the Local. The Swiss adult scientific literacy rate is 16%.

To be classified as "scientifically literate," Miller said one must be able to understand approximately 20 of 31 scientific concepts and terms similar to those that would be found in articles that appear in the New York Times weekly science section and in an episode of the PBS program "NOVA."
Miller is the Hannah Professor of integrative studies at MSU. He has appointments in the Division of Mathematics and Science Education and the Department of Political Science

Miller believes that 28% (USA) is "insufficient for the requirements of a modern democracy."

http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/scilit/review.pdf
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  #56  
Old 25.02.2012, 08:55
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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Be aware of what you wish for, it might be replaced with Russian..
Well atleast Russia is nowadays doing fine when comparing to for example EU or U.S area

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The Finns speak English quite well, using a lovely "s" when the sound should be like "sh" as their trademark, or so I noticed.
You can see the real truth when watching rally driver Tommi Mäkinen interview:

Although Tommi has been improving his skills over the years, something like that is mainly how we speak

I did not have many changes to speak English at Switzerland, but those who did speak English were really fluent in it.
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  #57  
Old 25.02.2012, 09:03
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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That may be because the average Ticinese NEEDS to know German much more than the average Zürcher needs to know Italian. (Somebody correct me if I am wrong.)
No, they have no need of German. Why would they, except for the rare trip up north?

Many, such as my wife, don't speak ANY German, French is far more likely as it is the first language they learn (after Italian), German 3rd, English 4th.

When I first came to Ticino, I got away with French, as I spoke almost no Italian.

Tom
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  #58  
Old 25.02.2012, 09:07
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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What Wolli said. Most teachers barely speak English themselves, they are not professional English teachers, they are mostly just teachers who, among other subjects, also teach English.
Or French, which is why, when my kids speak French, they have an Italian accent (but not when speaking English, then they have a CanAm accent).

Tom
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Old 25.02.2012, 11:31
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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Everyone will, once you have your education recognized officially in this country and hold at least B2 in one of the local languages. You will not get a primary school post, maybe not a secondary, or any post that is expected to mix specialization (teaching a few subjects), but you could become specialized English teacher to fill in the gaps "generalists" can't teach, or easily in many language schools.

who knows, perhaps after one academic year i could end up teaching english combined with my original subject specialisation - History and Business! Once my german is up to scratch :-)
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Old 25.02.2012, 11:47
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Re: Swiss spend high on English but lag behind

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I don't live in Switzerland, so I can't really comment on this country with the same knowledge that you do---but I can ask questions. The question I have is this---is this really that big of a problem for Switzerland?

Clearly if the Swiss genuinely believe that every Swiss citizen should be as fluent in English as their native canton's language, or most of the members of this forum, they have a lot of catching up to do. But the native languages of Switzerland---German, French, and Italian---are very useful in Europe and enable most Swiss to travel a good deal outside their country without needing English. Also, I can't argue with Swiss who would say it is more important to learn at least one of their fellow countrymen's languages before learning an outside language---no matter how useful that language is.

While there is a very real language barrier that exists for English speakers who come to Switzerland, there are many Swiss who do speak English, particularly in the larger cities which have a lot of workers and visitors from many different countries. Yes, there are places like Schwyz where nobody speaks anything other than the local Swiss-German dialect. Obviously, the people in Schwyz don't think there is a problem with this. (In fairness to them, there are probably more Swiss who speak English in Schwyz than Americans who speak German in Derwood.) If they DID feel there was a problem, they would probably go about learning English for the same reason why Swiss in Ticino learn German---because they need to.

Does Switzerland NEED more English-speaking Swiss, or is this like an extra car in the garage---something nice to have, but not absolutely necessary?
A) the BIG problem for Switzerland, in the past and now, was and is that Swiss people (I speak about German speaking Switzerland) HAD to do languages in order to cope. Be it for transit-travellers, for guests, as business-travellers or as soldiers in foreign service. The languages changed over the centuries, and you when looking into history will see that Switzerland often "lagged behind" a bit, which however was not a disaster

B) Nobody believes that people ought to be "fluent" in English, the general idea however is that people ought to understand English and be able to "communicate" acceptably in English. And so, English in the past 25 years was gradually upgraded. It now in the Canton of Zürich is taught already in the second primary class, and French only up from the 5th class. Those who profited from that are now still less than 20 years old and hardly in a survey of "adult people". A lot of the adult population here grew up when English in schools was only taught in a marginal way and so will have a minimal level of English or none. If you have a look at the "age structure" in Switzerland, you will realize that the above 50 generation is in an overwhelming majority. Those folks should have asked the 15 to 30 years old population and the result would have been different

C) Do not be mistaken by some "reports" on EF about places like Schwyz. People tell you in 10'000 words that those policemen did not speak English or French or Italian. Beside the point that they of course DO speak either English or French or both, the simple fact is that POLICE does NOT speak "ausländisch"

D) A personal note about Italian. I never learnt Italian in school. I learnt a good deal when on yearly holidays, not least as I was THE interpreter for my older brother who out of principle did NOT speak "ausländisch", and later on when being enroute alone was regarded as a "Native" and expected to understand the language. I still cannot really participate in discussions but can communicate sufficiently in Italian to get along. THIS is the level people from Zürich should try to attain in French, English and Italian, at least as far as possible
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