Department of English

The Advances of English and Language Strife in Switzerland

by Dr. Daniel Stotz

23 October 2017, 10:15 - 11:45

Room: F-121



Since the turn of the millennium, English as a language of wider communication and as a school subject has made inroads in the Swiss sociolinguistic landscape. The language is now taught from Grade 3 or 5 in primary school and has become a working language in various corporations and institutions of higher education. These advances can be construed either as an encroachment of “Anglobalising” forces or as a form of self-inflicted colonialization.

My contribution will start out from the language act in the Swiss Federal Constitution, which was changed in 2000 to explicitly include the principle of territoriality (the idea that one language belongs to a given territory by rights and tradition). I will argue that this was a reaction to a perceived threat to harmony and peaceful cohabitation of the linguistic communities (Stotz 2006). Recent developments around the struggle to exclude one foreign language from the primary school curriculum highlight a discrepancy between strategic decisions on a national level (EDK Sprachenstrategie 2004) and the discursive constructions on the ground (cf. headlines such as “Frühfranzösisch als Folklore” and “Frühenglisch bringt nichts“). It remains to be seen whether Swiss educational language policy with its aim to accomplish comparable language competences in English and a second national language at A2.2/B1 levels of the CEFR is realistic.

In a more practical part, we will discuss the implications of these policy choices for teacher education and the development of teaching materials.



Stotz, D. (2006). Breaching the peace: struggles around multilingualism in Switzerland. Language Policy 5: 247 – 265.

* Students who are attending the lecture are kindly requested to read Stotz (2006) up to page 225.