SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

EDUCATION

Why are the Swiss getting worse at speaking English?

Swiss command of the English language is continuing to decline, according to a worldwide report that ranks diff the ability of different nationalities to speak the language of Shakespeare. Here's how the Switzerland compares.

Why are the Swiss getting worse at speaking English?
Photo: Depositphotos

The report, released on Monday, shows that Switzerland has fallen to 19th on the global rankings, down from 15th in 2018 and 12th in 2017. 

One of the reasons for Switzerland sliding down the list may be that more and more countries are being included year after year, although this year’s points tally of 60.23 is lower than 2018’s 61.77.

A total of 100 countries were included on the list, up from 88 in 2018 and 32 in 2017. Holland came out on top, overtaking Sweden for first place. 

READ: Switzerland's 2018 ranking

Where do the Swiss speak English best?

This may not be news to anyone who’s spent much time in Switzerland’s different linguistic regions, but German-speaking Switzerland significantly outranks French and Italian-speaking Switzerland when it comes to English ability. 

With a score of 63.52, Zurich ranks as the region with the best English, roughly the same as Germany and Austria. The two cantons with the worst English are the Italian-speaking region of Ticino and the French-speaking Geneva. 

Image: Education First

Swiss men buck the trend

Another finding was that men are gradually catching up to women when it comes to English proficiency worldwide and across Europe – although the figures from Switzerland suggest that this began a long time ago. 

While across Europe and the globe women tend to have a better command of English, the opposite is true in Switzerland.

Swiss men rank half a point higher for English than Swiss women. 

Image: Education First

With four national languages, why aren't the Swiss doing better? 

One of the major reasons for Switzerland having a lower level of English the country's significant linguistic diversity. While this does prep the Swiss for learning English generally, it's often superseded by the requirement to learn another language. 

As Sue Wood, the President of the English Teachers Association of Switzerland, told The Local previously.

“There are four national languages here, and while English is the first foreign language taught in many cantons, there is also a requirement for primary school children to learn another national language,” she said. 

Swiss students all are required to learn two foreign languages, with the requirement that at least one of them is a national language. 

Wood told The Local that while Switzerland may be sliding down the rankings now, improvements were on the horizon. 

“Switzerland has invested a lot in English teaching in the last ten to 15 years. The newer teachers coming through now have had full in-depth teacher training and we are now waiting to see the results,” she said. 

The best – and the rest?

Switzerland is considered to be in the second tier of countries according to their ESL skills, with a ranking of ‘High’. Other countries in the ‘High’ bracket included Romania, Argentina and the Philippines. 

As could probably be expected, countries in the north of Europe were among the best in the world for their ESL (English as a Second Language) skills. 

The Netherlands topped the poll, taking first place from Sweden. Norway and Denmark came third and fourth respectively. 

The top bracket – ‘Very High’ – included 14 countries, 12 of which are in Europe. South Africa and Singapore were the only non-European countries to make the top tier. 

Switzerland’s low ranking may be somewhat surprising – particularly considering neighbouring Germany and Austria were in the top tier – but the Swiss still rank higher than a number of larger European nations. 

France, Spain and Italy all rank in the third tier as having a ‘Moderate’ comprehension of English. 

The report

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 14.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 14.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px}

The report was compiled by Education First, an international education company founded in Sweden but ironically now headquartered in Lucerne.

The study is compiled by more than 2.3 million tests which take place across the globe – a 77 percent increase from 2018. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HEALTH

Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime 

SHOW COMMENTS