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Sociolinguistic Profile of English in Switzerland Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 14th, 2022

Background of the Research

The word “sociolinguistic profile” means providing information about the way a language is applied and functions for a given context. The provision of information about the language is made through categorization that breaks down the various ways a given language operates within the given context of research (Davidson, 2017). English is found to be taking 20% of the world’s language usage from the various studies done, which translates to over seven million speakers in the entire world. Some countries speak English as their first language while others as the language for instructions and guidance.

The majority of people in Switzerland speak one of the four national languages, but the number of English speakers has recently risen. As per a recent study, more than 60% of Swiss nationals speak German, close to 20% speak French, approximately 7% use Italian, and less than 1% use Romansh (Brunelière, 2016). More than 10% of the country’s people do not place one of their national languages as the primary tongue. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the sociolinguistic profile in Switzerland. The essay is organized into sections such as history, users, uses, linguistic nativism and attitudes.

History of Language Usage in Switzerland

Since the mid-20th century, the proportion of foreign-language speakers in Switzerland has tremendously increased. As of now, languages such as Serbian, Croatian, Kurdish and Albanian are frequently used in Switzerland. English, on that note, has been entering the country more than any other language (Huggard, 2016). So far, English is said to be the most dominant, and there is a possibility that shortly, it could become the primary foreign language than is used by syllabuses and curriculum. Many researchers have anticipated that English may become the Lingua Franca in Switzerland’s linguistic regions. One of the significant boosts of the narrative is that there was a decision in recent years by canton Zurich that suggest English should be the foreign language in the curriculum for all schools in Switzerland (Boser and Brühwiler, 2017). The roots of English in Switzerland may baffle many researchers since Switzerland had no colonies. The argument would be that some Swiss nationals worked with colonial powers and profited in the seizure of some essential things, among them the language of communication, giving English a base root of Switzerland’s entrance.

Many people feared that choosing English would undermine the identity of Switzerland. That worry was mainly by the French and Italian speakers who had previously entered the nation’s language command on official platforms. The academicians argue that minorities need to study English for professional reasons; hence Switzerland finds it more important to learn English. The roots were also facilitated by parents wanting their children to have access to the global language (Lawrence, 2021). For example, in the scientific field, English has been highly adopted as there is a mixture of cognitive and memory interference in the tasks. Therefore, they see it wise to have English neutralize the entire thing (Mufwene, 2018). The English entrance in Switzerland led to a gradual decline in Romansh and Italian because it was considered that many people had explored English-speaking regions in the whole world.

When English came first, many people in Switzerland were somewhat interested in knowing the language as it shared some prefixes with their first language German (Bokan, 2018). There was a connection in the structure of the sentences for the two foreign languages due to some words such as ‘Apfel’ which means apple,’tanzen’ that means dance, ‘hoffen’ that means hope, ‘wasser’, which means water, ‘totchter’ that means daughter and many more examples.

English Users in Switzerland

The most popular use of English in the country pertains to the official interaction where there is the involvement of two different ethnic groups in the same forum. For example, suppose Switzerland has to host a global event. In that case, there is the interconnection of languages, and that means the event organizers will have to put in place English guidelines such as manuals used, a translator who is on standby and also an editor for any content that is uploaded officially online by the government of Sweden (Boser and Brühwiler, 2017). As indicated earlier, close to 74,000 people use English in Switzerland as their native language, which translates to a 1% figure compared to other languages. Close to 350,000 people in Switzerland use English as their main language.

The main language, is the one an individual can use to give instructions, present a given survey, and offer guidelines (Mufwene, 2018). School in Switzerland, especially internationally-based, has been a vital contributor to English usage in the European nation. Other language users include diplomats, professionals such as college and university lecturers of English descent, and other categories. It is expected that many cantons will ultimately embrace English as their official foreign language (Davidson, 2017). The use of English in Switzerland has led to some clash between cantons’ autonomy with a link to education and the desire to need to have the cultural preservation that can be used to define Switzerland’s unity and identity.

Uses of English in Switzerland

First, it is used for communication in official environments such as embassies and other diplomatic grounds. English has been highly used in schools to train young learners to have a foreign language alongside their native and surrounding languages (Lawrence, 2021). For example, some fields require knowledge of English to be a priority. Cases of having English coaches in the Switzerland national league have been evident, and that means the new roles taken by coaches will be to train the players on some basics of the language (Mufwene, 2018). Other players who have explored the outside leagues, such as the English premier league, have most influenced the language’s adoption to the various platforms such as etiquette scenarios.

Many people would prefer to say ‘Thank you to show their diverse civilization in language among Swiss nationals. It has been found that English has been used in setting exams for international schools whereby the papers are outlined in English, and it takes a learner’s motive to choose the language they want to major in (Pfenninger and Watts, 2019). The German-speaking Swiss feel comfortable using English with their French francophone counterparts. Over 65% of the French speakers are said to choose English to have a conversation with the German speakers (Mair, 2020). In some legal processes, English has been used to swear in individuals, especially those coming out of the country.

English is evident in Switzerland as the French community has been adopting fractious use of the language to neutralize other languages such as Romansh and Albanian dialects. Additionally, German speakers are happy with cussing in English and their local native language. Other uses of English in Switzerland include tourism events, school international symposiums, and consortiums. From the business perspective, it is widely acknowledged that official business meetings involving Western and eastern countries should focus more on using English in their discussions (Boser and Brühwiler, 2017). The other notable uses of English in Switzerland can be in matters to do with food dialect where hospitality has embraced the setting of restaurants based on English cuisine to promote foreign language use.

Linguistic Nativism in Switzerland

Linguistic nativism, in this case, refers to the introduction and knowledge of the language while an individual is at the early stages of growth. According to Chomsky’s theory, young people can learn a language from a very early perspective. That means nativism involves understanding the language’s basics in the developmental stages (Brunelière, 2016). Learning of language can be exceptional in some cases, with some people expected to learn the vocabulary at a very early stage and vice versa. Many German-speaking cantons have adopted the use of English for the young generation. It means that children will grow up knowing the German language alongside English as the first foreign language. The perspective will build nativism for the child as they will have the ability to influence both English and German (Wang, 2016). The Swiss national foundation has recently supported the idea that English should be the fifth official language and help in issues regarding citizens and the public administration.

English basics are embraced in the school curriculum, whereby even universities have started to adopt the language significantly. The purpose of the efforts is to make English a formal and recognized language in Switzerland hence boosting the linguistic nativism in the country. According to a study done by the Federal Statistical Office in Switzerland, more than 40% of the resident population over the teenage level use English at least once a week. The widespread use of English promotes the nativism ideology of the foreign language in the European country (Bokan, 2018). The other indicator of linguistic nativism in favor of English is the business approaches used in the portfolio culture (Huggard, 2016). For instance, many will realize that some media mainstreams have decided to use English adverts to bring down costs in their business. There is a gradual transformation of English to be one of the native languages, especially in globalization trends.

Linguistic English Attitude in Switzerland

Attitude refers to the settled way of thinking about a certain phenomenon characterized by taking some influence on an individual’s behavior and conduct (Lawrence, 2021). Attitude can be negative or positive depending on the context. In this case, the focus is on English adoption and usage in Switzerland (Wang, 2016). From the research, many people have positively accommodated English in Switzerland for various reasons. First, those in the tourism sector embrace it as they know it will help them secure deals with foreigners. Second, there is that feeling of the classy notion that knowing many languages is a treasure, and the prestige has had many people boast about it (Davidson, 2017). However, the same issue on attitude seems to take mixed reactions as some people oppose using English due to the feeling that the Swiss culture will be undermined. Secondly, native English speakers may be seen as superior to the other ethnic profiles due to geopolitical tensions. However, someone’s attitude toward using a language will depend on systemic factors such as prejudice, stereotype and other imaginary notions.

Many Swiss nationals have the attitude that English is the global business language that can communicate with clients. In business forums, it is expected that one’s knowledge of English is a measure of how influential and interlinked they are in the business world (Vegas, 2016). Therefore, there is a feeling that English is the best language to adopt from a global business perspective in Swiss regions. For a long time, Switzerland has been a business thriving center and an invincible part of the global economy. That aspect has led to the organizations turning into English at all costs (Huggard, 2016). Therefore, the linguistic attitude toward English is significantly positive in Switzerland

In conclusion, research shows that English is growing in Switzerland despite strong native languages that have taken roots before. Other languages commonly used in Switzerland include German, Romansh, Albanian and Italian (Wang, 2016). The use of English has grown since the 1950s in Switzerland due to the globalization that has made many things interconnected in the world. According to the research, Switzerland has about 74,000 native English speakers, which is a 1%, while over 300,000 users of the same language use it as their main official language (Brunelière, 2016). There is heavy usage in English today compared to the past due to the occurrences such as business meetings and academics where there is a curriculum set according to the English syllabus.

Additionally, the language’s growth is due to the prejudice that its ownership of it has some prestigious value and other significant importance. The nativism of English is gradually taking roots, with many children being taught how to use English as their language of instruction alongside German and other Swiss languages (Wang, 2016). There appears to be a mixed reaction to English adoption in Switzerland, with some cantons fearing losing Swiss identity and culture (Kużelewska, 2016). The dispute has been highly condemned by professionals, academicians and other civilized group of people in Switzerland.

English in Swiss daily life has taken a semi-permanent approach, with many German-speaking cantons embracing English in an effort to provoke the fear of cultural interference (Kużelewska, 2016). In Switzerland, there has been a likely successful debate about making English the fifth official language where the narrative’s proponents seem to be winning big. Universities, formal sectors, and social life have promoted English in Switzerland more than any other time (Davidson, 2017). Switzerland has been known to embrace diversity, and one of the objectives is to allow multilingualism. However, the reports currently in the process show that the country’s eagerness to establish equality is not that streamlined as there are opposing forces such as geopolitical tensions that make the prejudice that English speakers are superior to the other speakers. The situation is different nowadays thanks to cantons and the business community that has pushed foreign language use in Switzerland.

Based on the status, position and importance of English in Switzerland as discussed above, the use of the language will change in several ways. First, communication will incorporate English as one of the main languages in offices, schools, seminars, workshops and conferences in the host country. Schools will add English as a compulsory subject so as to help young people grow to know the style of communication. Lastly, the use of English in Switzerland will bring the country more revenue as foreign companies will employ locals who know the language hence creating both revenue and employment for the country and its nationals respectively. The ethnicity of Switzerland will be categorized as that conforming to English standards from the prejudice and stereotype of intensive English usage.


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