Switzerland is regarded as a role model for multilingualism by many but as British Council Switzerland Director, Caroline Morrissey wrote in an earlier blog post ‘reality can be quite different, with the four language areas existing well side by side (and mostly ignoring one another) and with little cross-border integration.’
After the Switzerland launch, British Council Communications manager, David Sorrentino and Language Rich Europe Project Co-ordinator, Eilidh MacDonald caught up with Simon Denoth, representative of Rumantsch TV, to reflect on the event and what still needs to be done to improve the multilingual landscape of Switzerland.
Simon, do you have any reflections on the event?
I very much liked that one of the domains included was the media. It was very much centred on education policy but I liked that the media was included… There was a good mix of policy makers, officials, journalists, and teachers. I thought it was a good mix – a community of the ‘linguistically interested.’
What should Language Rich Europe’s role be in Switzerland to improve the linguistic landscape?
It could simply point out that there is still progress to be made. Some of the concrete examples in your draft paper, like subtitling films, (are) one way of doing a bit of linguistic engineering (and) picking up passive knowledge of language at least and the Netherlands and Scandinavia have shown that brilliantly. In Switzerland films are always dubbed, never subtitled…This is one thing that bothers me – people say ‘your shows are very nice, but I would very much like to understand what you are saying.’ But they don’t know, maybe because they don’t tune in from the start, (that you can) just type in 777 to get subtitles. Subtitles are just one thing, obviously.
This is just the beginning of the project. How should it develop to get impact with the future recommendations coming out?
Marketing is going to be important. Simplify it, make it more accessible. The addressees are mainly going to be the policy makers but you could target a broader public if you could…get it out there via the media. They are the multipliers. The British Council may be perceived as an institution there to promote English but it is about best practice – this should be brought out. It is not just about promoting English as the one language everyone should learn. Learn as many languages as possible, one of which might have to be English.
You can read more on the topic ‘Should Switzerland preserve its multilingualism?’ at swissinfo.ch