English Taking the Swiss By Storm

There is a title that is somewhat misleading. Read the following article and you will see that English is continuing to advance around the world as one of the preeminent languages.

GENEVA (AFP) – Switzerland’s traditional multilingual society is being stirred up by the growing use of English at work as well as some immigrant languages in the home, according to official studies released.

While the country’s three main native languages — German, French and Italian — are holding ground, just 60,500 people can speak the declining fourth language of Romansh — a drop of 8,4 percent over a decade ago.

English was used by 21.7 percent of people in their workplace in 2000 against 15.9 percent a decade earlier, the studies based on the last Swiss census five years ago found.

English has overtaken French as the second business language in the German-speaking east of the country, and is replacing German in companies in the French-speaking west of the country.

German is the majority language in Switzerland, spoken by 63,7 percent of the country’s 7.4 million people, followed by French (20.4 percent) and Italian (6.5 percent) in the south.

The growth of new immigrant communities has added to Switzerland’s already complex linguistic landscape, but not to the detriment of native Swiss tongues, the studies by the federal statistical office said.

The use of foreign languages at home has grown from 13 percent to 16.6 percent of the population, with Serbo-Croat and Albanian now used more than Portuguese or Spanish.

However, immigrants were also more inclined to learn native Swiss languages from the first generation, and mastered two languages to a greater degree than their Swiss counterparts, according to the data.

About two-thirds of foreigners declared a Swiss language as their primary tongue in the census, an increase of 16.7 percent over 1990.

While the use of Italian has declined by 1.1 percent in a decade, the studies said that was largely due to the return of immigrants from neighbouring Italy to their homeland, or the integration of their children into local French and German communities.

The use of native Italian in the southern canton of Ticino has grown, unlike Romansch in the neighbouring Alpine region of Graubunden.

The encroachment of German from the north over the past decade has continued there, eroding the ancient fourth national language’s territory to the point that many experts now fear it is endangered.

Only 35,000 people — 0.5 percent of the population — listed Romansh as their first language in the national census.”

I am a big proponent of multilingualism and am not interested in a world in which only a few languages are spoken. It would be a tragedy if there was only one language.

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