Swiss Saturday: English

by Evil HR Lady on August 8, 2020

There’s a joke that Switzerland is the only country to have a national language that no one speaks: German

In reality, Switzerland has four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh), and I’m no authority about how pure the other three languages are, but English is probably spoken more often than the official language of German. (As a general rule, dialect speakers prefer English to High German in many cases.)

As evidence of this, we have a new national hymn.

In English.

White Cross on a Shining Red

White cross on a shining red,
woven by a common thread:
freedom, independence, equality.
Open to the world in solidarity,
Swiss are one in peace and diversity.
Free are we who freely speak,
strong as we protect the weak.
White cross on a shining red,
sign of Switzerland, the path we tread.

It’s lovely, and as an English speaker, I appreciate it. But, from a sociological perspective, I find it fascinating. Even though Germanic students are required to study French in schools and vice versa, when the two meet the chosen language for discussion is more likely to be English. (I don’t know what the required second languages are for the Italian and Romansh regions, although I suspect German.)

Big businesses operate in English with a high frequency.

It’s quite rare to run into people here who don’t speak at least enough English for me to never have to learn a word in German. (No panicking–I speak German and have a B2 certificate and even teach a religion class in German to very patient teenagers.)

In other words, if you want to succeed in Switzerland, you better pay attention in your English class.

I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a single German teacher in the United States that tells students to study up on their German so they can be a successful business person.

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