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Initiative filed to ban English at Zurich Uni

A citizen of Switzerland’s fifth largest city has filed an initiative to parliament to ban English at the country’s largest university.

A Swiss citizen has called for a ban on English at the country's largest university, the University of Zurich. Photo: pxhere

The initiative is unlikely to be successful, according to local media

The unnamed resident of Dietikon has called for the University of Zurich to only accept German, as Albert Einstein wrote his dissertation in the language and English is not an official language of the country, according to reports.

“Language is an emotional topic, and every now and then something curious pops up”

The university refused to comment as the case is ongoing business in parliament, but local media in Switzerland has reported that the initiative would have difficulties getting passed in the canton parliament and it is unlikely to be successful.

“Language is an emotional topic, and every now and then something curious pops up,” Anders Hagström, director of Global Educational Affairs at another of the city’s institutions, ETH Zurich, told The PIE News.

Debates about language are constant, he added, be it whether children in Kindergarten should be taught in the Swiss-German or in standard German dialect, at what age and in which order school children should learn another national language or another foreign language, or how many languages can be taught simultaneously.

“With Switzerland’s direct democracy and the fact that the authority over education primarily lies with the 26 cantons, there is some aspect of language and education is being debated somewhere all the time,” he explained.

“Initiatives in the other direction also pop up regularly, for example, making English an official language in Switzerland.”

Language plays a less central role in science and engineering than in the humanities and social sciences, Hagström noted.

ETH Zurich aims to ensure that the language in the first year of bachelors programs is 100% German, rising to a maximum of 50% English in the third year. However, the institution teaches most of its master’s program in English.

This system was introduced in 2010, Hagström said.

“I am not aware of any objections or discussions in recent years,” he concluded.

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