Journal article

Receptive Multilingualism in the Swiss Army

Published in:
  • International Journal of Multilingualism. - 2013, vol. 10, no. 2, p. 181-195
English In this paper a particular context where receptive multilingualism at work can be observed is discussed. The Swiss armed forces underwent a series of quite dramatic downsizing measures, which lead to a situation with increased amount of mixed groups and linguistically mixed situations regarding the first/native language of officers and the first/native languages of the recruits. Although there are some minimal dispositions in the official documents regarding the right of recruits to benefit from instruction in their first language, the actual practices diverge in significant ways from these dispositions. In particular, members of the national minorities are increasingly instructed (partially or fully) in German, which generates feelings of minorization and enlivens the deeply entrenched fears of Germanization in the minority groups. The paper presents questionnaire data from three military training camps that aim to shed new light on the actual practice, the languages chosen both by instructors and recruits, and the perception and attitudes of these practices by the members of the army. Receptive multilingualism turns out to be one of different strategies applied in mixed groups, and its acceptance correlates positively with exposure. The paper also discusses the participants’ views of advantages and disadvantages of the regime, and some general conclusions will be drawn regarding the potential of this particular language regime for multilingual high-stake institutional contexts such as the one in the scope of the paper.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de plurilinguisme et didactique des langues étrangères
  • English
Language, linguistics
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