Friday, 8 April 2016

Why I'll never Learn German in Switzerland

When we made the decision to move to Basel, two years ago, I thought: "Finally, I'll be able to learn German!".


Well, my German has definitely improved but it is nowhere near the level I was hoping it'd be two years down the line.

I've come to realise that Basel is not the place to learn German. Basically, the Swiss do not like to speak German. Many prefer to speak French or English to me rather than Hochdeutsch.

I guess there are many reasons for this.

To start with, people here have their own language, which is unintelligible to most German speakers. Being Algerian, I know exactly how this feels. Algerian Arabic is virtually impossible to understand for anyone who does not come from the Maghreb (time to brush up on your geography!). The best I can do to make myself understood is to speak Classical Arabic. However, I do not like doing so. It somewhat feels false, artificial, forced. The Arab world uses Classical Arabic to read and write, but no Arabic speaker has it as his/her native language.

Secondly, the Swiss may have an inferiority complex with respect to their northern neighbours. With its 80 million inhabitants, strong economy and stature in the world, Germany has the capacity to intimidate many European countries. I have witnessed quite a few Swiss people apologise to the BabelDad for their supposedly bad German!

Thirdly, the Basel area is highly cosmopolitan. Not only does it border Germany and France, but also a third of its population originates from foreign lands. English (and to a lesser extent French) is a preferred Lingua Franca. Moreover, in my experience, Swiss people like to practise their English whenever they get a chance.

In conclusion, I am confident I will learn German, eventually. But it will not be through immersion as I'd originally thought. It will be because I want to and I will put a lot of effort into it.

Ich schaffe das!