ECTACO Info | More Swiss eager to learn Russian

ECTACO INFO (ECTACO - Electronic translators)

Second native, third foreign, fourth most popular – the Russian language has gained a striking foothold in multi-language Switzerland. Opinion polls show that many Swiss are eager to learn the language of Pushkin and Tolstoy for professional or personal reasons. Russian is a mother tongue for 26,000 Swiss citizens and a second native language for immigrants from former Soviet republics and children born into mixed families.

The number of Russian language learners in Swiss schools and universities is on the rise. Russian ranks among the top four most popular foreign languages in Switzerland along with Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. It is a compulsory foreign language for more than 2,000 Swiss school students.

Thomas Schmidt, President of the Swiss Association of Teachers of Russian, confirmed that more and more students were taking up Russian for economic reasons, probably encouraged by their parents seeing it as a promising language to learn. He would like as many Swiss schools as possible to include Russian into their curricula. But that requires approval from cantonal authorities.

German-speaking cantons account for the largest number of schools where Russian is taught. There are dozens of Russian-language classes in Zurich.

Unfortunately, Russian is taught almost nowhere in French-speaking cantons, complained Sarah Osipov, a teacher of Russian at evening courses in Geneva. Her students are of different ages and trades: some have a Russian spouse, others need Russian for work, and still others just love Russian literature and culture. Sarah herself read Dostoyevsky’s novels at the age of 15. She took up Russian because she wanted to read Russian literature in its original language and gradually fell in love with Russia. Sarah has Russian blood running in her veins. Her grandfather was a little boy when the family Russia for Europe.

The most capable students tend to choose Russian as their foreign language, said Professor Jens Herlth, head of the Slavic Department in Freiburg University. Though predominantly attracted by Russian culture, they also realize that Russia is an important player on the political and economic stage. Prof. Herlth is a great admirer of Mandelshtam - the “most beautiful poetry” he has ever read.

In 2014, the Russky Mir (Russian World) Foundation is planning to open a Center for Russian Studies in Freiburg University.
by Natalya Kovalenko