Cantonal parliamentarian urges expatriates to learn German
In an article published in the Neue Zuger Zeitung, the CVP politician and cantonal parliamentarian Gregor Kupper, 65, urges all foreigners moving to the canton to learn German and to make an effort get to know the mentality of the local people.
The managing director of the OPES Fiduciary AG company of Zug and chairman of the board of the Zugerland Transport Company (ZVB) cited an incident which took place in an office-block lift recently. "The other person in the lift had just finished a call on his mobile telephone in English, which was clearly his mother-tongue. I then greeted him with a friendly "Good evening" (albeit in Swiss dialect), whereupon this man looked at me in a somewhat bemused way and did not respond at all. It made me wonder whether he had not understood what I had said or whether he had been taken aback by someone actually speaking to him in a lift."
He then cited the case of an acquaintance of his, a Swiss, who had been brought up in New Zealand. Although he had returned to Switzerland 5 years ago his knowledge of German remained somewhat modest and the reason for this was that as soon as anyone realised he had difficulty with German, they spoke to him in English.
"These may be petty examples," said Kupper, "but they illustrate why we sometimes have difficulties with our foreign neighbours. But above all, it shows that language is the be-all and end-all for the ability to integrate successfully. Not only this, foreigners should make an effort to get to know our traditions and customs."
Kupper mentioned how the cantonal parliament recognised there was a problem and as a result had asked the cantonal government to draft a cantonal law of integration as far back as 2008; and this in addition to the regulations imposed by the State.
The parliamentary committee looking into this proposes two aspects which go beyond what the cantonal government has suggested, namely to ensure there is a greater obligation on the part of foreigners moving to Zug to learn German and that these newcomers should be taught about the way of life here in the canton.
Kupper feels that no-one would disagree with the suggestion that foreigners should start to learn German but questions the validity of all foreigners having to attend an official session to introduce them to the customs of the area, even though other cantons have already introduced this and have had a positive response. In Kupper's view, these talks should not be compulsory but each individual should be encouraged to attend and that the canton should provide them as a service.
"This new legislation means a six-figure sum to pay for it but I feel it is worth it," said Kupper, though he recognised that some may question whether this issue was the duty the authorities at all. "If it succeeds in reducing the possibility of conflict between locals and newcomers and if it succeeds in meaning we can reduce the number of extra classes to help children with problems in German in school, then every franc invested in it will have been worth it," he said.
Kupper recognises that foreigners are part of the fabric of Zug, but he ended his article with an appeal to all of them, "Get to know more about our ways of doing things and above all, start learning German. You will not regret it."