Switzerland lags other nations for English proficiency

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by Malcolm Curtis
|The Local Switzerland|November 7, 2013

English is sometimes considered a fourth official language in Switzerland but a new study suggests the mountain country still has progress to make when it comes to proficiency in the tongue of Shakespeare.

The world’s largest ranking of English skills puts Switzerland well behind Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and even nations in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

The third EF English Proficiency Index, released on Wednesday, ranks Switzerland in 16th place among 60 non-Anglophone countries.

Despite the importance in the country of international organizations and multinational companies that use English as the language of business, the Swiss are behind such other European nations as Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Germany and Latvia, according to the index.

It also trails Asian jurisdictions Malaysia and Singapore.

The top seven countries, judged to have a “very high proficiency” for English, are Sweden, followed by Norway, the Netherlands, Estonia, Denmark, Austria and Finland.

The Swiss are noted for being multilingual, but English is not yet as high a priority as in these countries, the index results indicate.

Switzerland, which has four national languages — French, German, Italian and Romansh — is ranked at the bottom of 10 countries judged to have “high proficiency” English, just ahead of Portugal.

German dialect is spoken by 64 percent of the population, with French accounting for 20 percent and Italian about seven percent, while Romansh is spoken by less than one percent.

Although many Swiss speak two or more languages, the country is divided into linguistic regions where English sometimes becomes the common language between, say, French- and German-speakers.

Retailers often use English words to market products nationally to avoid having to use the three official languages.

But English does not have an official status in Switzerland.

To read the full article, check TheLocal.ch

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About Malcolm Curtis

Freelance English-language communications professional (writing, editing, translations) based near Geneva, Switzerland. Let me know if I can help you.
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