Swiss barrier down

February 5, 1999

The fact that the University of Geneva is debating introducing English-language tuition to attract more British and Americans suggests these students' unwillingness to operate in a foreign language (THES, January 29). Yet there are many English-speaking students for whom using a language when studying abroad is the best way to understand a culture and people.

Experience in the Netherlands shows that English courses can attract foreign revenue, but the national language is eroded, the range of published material shrinks, and the lexicon suffers.

If the Swiss are also able to study in English, many may do so. English has no roots in Switzerland but could it become the lingua franca? Would a national entity then remain viable?

John Whitworth

Part-time lecturer in French studies, University of East London

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