Speaking in Switzerland

I am writing this blog today to dispel myth #1 about Switzerland. For those of you who read my "10 Signs That You Attend Franklin College" post, you know that an all too common question us Franklin students face from friends back home is: "do you speak swiss?" or even "do you speak swedish yet?" While neither of those questions are particularly intelligent I don't look down on my friends or anything. Because, honesty moment: I was not aware that anything but Swiss-German was spoken in Switzerland before I applied to Franklin.

Fact: A large majority of Switzerland is Swiss-German speaking
Fiction: Swiss-German is the only language spoken in Switzerland
Fact: Swiss-German + French + Italian + Romansh are the four official national languages of Switzerland
Fact: Lugano is located in Italian-speaking Switzerland. 

At Franklin College completing at least a 300 level language course (9-15 credits) is required as part of our core curriculum (explained more in depth here). As an international liberal arts university institution we recognize the importance of language learning to facilitate cross-cultural communication. At Franklin we offer courses in French, Italian, German and Spanish. And I would say that most students take one of those languages and stick with it. But there are also some students who use elective credit to take multiple languages at once. I know there has been a lot of discussion on the FC 2017 facebook page about the pros + cons of taking more than one language a semester. In my opinion it is best to start out in one intro level language and devote all your energy to it. Then when you reach the 200 or 300 level of that language you can consider taking an intro class for another language. I personally am not a big believer in taking two 100 level language classes at the same time. But that is not to say that taking two intro level language classes is impossible! Especially if you are already fluent in 2+ languages than it is not going to be as difficult to pick up two more simultaneously. But there is research to support both sides and every person is unique, so ultimately you have just got to do what feels right to you!

And just in case any of you are still indecisive about your language selection I have put together a few "pros" for each language, which will hopefully help you decide which is the best fit for you and your interests. 

Most of Switzerland speaks German, plus neighboring Austria + Germany speak German too! In fact many people in Lugano speak German as their second language! So immersion opportunities are plentiful. But be warned: Swiss-German is very different from High German.
Iconic Swiss Cities: Zurich + Bern + Luzern

Full disclosure: This is the language that I took (and am continuing with).  Mainly due to the incredible italian immersion opportunities in Lugano. They truly are bar none, I love the fact that I can navigate grocery stores, order my own food at restaurants, and chat casually with people on the street. But a very basic knowledge of Italian is possible without taking the class, in fact I hope to do a "crash course Italian" post in the very near future! 
Iconic Swiss Cities: Lugano + Locarno 

As an international business language not only is French spoken in France + Belgium + parts of Africa, but also in many international political organizations or businesses. French is a valuable language in large part due to its nature as a working language.
Iconic Swiss Cities: Geneva + Lausanne 

While not an official language of Switzerland, many Americans take this language in high school so you do get advanced credits, plus for those looking to work in the Western hemisphere, Spanish is a valuable second language to have. Note: Spanish is only offered at the 200+ level. 

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what language you choose. All four programs are strong and if you are willing to embarrass yourself a little and speak to locals, you will be fluent in no time at all! As always, anyone with questions is welcome to comment. Current students, feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the comments section! I'd love to know what you have to say!


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