The Swiss linguistic landscape

The local context, partially conditioning how ELF unfolds, is Switzerland's only bilingual university, the University of Fribourg (UFR), situated in western Switzerland in a canton with two official languages: French (the cantonal majority language) and German (the national majority language whose spoken forms, Swiss German varieties, are not readily understood by others). UFR also has large numbers of Italophone students, together with international students and researchers not only from Europe, but also from Asian countries, notably India. French and/or German have been the official teaching languages, but English has become an additional or primary medium of instruction in several Master's programmes.

Most Swiss citizens grow up in either German, French or Italian, and only the small minority who speak Romansh become systematically bi- or multilingual (cf. Haas 2010; Werlen et al. 2011). There are 22 monolingual cantons and only four are officially bi- or trilingual. The canton of Fribourg/Freiburg has two official languages. Despite the Latin Confoederatio Helvetica, CH, Switzerland historically had no lingua franca (cf. Werlen et al. 2011: 7). In Germanophone areas, Alemannic varieties of German are prestigious and spoken regardless of an individual's social or educational background. Standard German is a school subject whose spoken forms tend to retain a 'foreign' tinge, but diglossia may also bring about multilingual flexibility and awareness (Berthele 2010). In Francophone cantons, dialects carry less prestige and French appears to be taught as formal literacy in a uniform 'central' standard variety. Francophones are less likely to use non-L1s productively in public, or to contribute to whole-class oral work.

UFR is a cantonal bilingual institution that tries simultaneously to protect twin monolingualism and promote individual bilingualism. This has led to different types of institutional bilingualism. Brohy's (2005) tripartite typology of parallel, complementary and integrative bilingualism is discussed elsewhere (cf. Schaller-Schwaner 2011: 425-426). Parallel bilingualism, i.e. twin monolin- gualism, requires communicative bridges between French and German, while integrative bilingualism requires students to use French and German as well as English receptively and has been most typical of the small but vibrant Science faculty. The sciences' bottom-up inclusion of English presented 'wild/unruly trilingualism' for UFR language management before English became a primary teaching language in MSc programmes in 2005, at which point it became discreetly veiled in UFR's PR media parlance as 'bi(tri)lingualism'.

 
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