Posts Tagged ‘language’


Friday, May 21st, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

As we all know, speaking the local language is essential when you move to another country.  I’m fortunate to be able to pick up languages easily.  In Argentina, it took a few months for me to get comfortable with Spanish, but I kept at it and was able to integrate pretty well into my surroundings.  I don’t know how I would survive Italy without knowing Italian.

I feel very lucky and proud when I navigate my way through mundane situations such as calling the phone company (if anyone answers) and going to the doctor.  Things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do without the language. What’s really exciting is when I’m able to understand jokes and even make them myself – in the local dialect!  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s quite an accomplishment.

Knowing the language has helped me make friends, obviously… but there are sometimes moments where either wires get crossed or I get tongue-tied because no matter how many ways I try to explain something, I can’t say what I want to say, or the person I’m talking to thinks I’m saying something else!  This is what happens when you form relationships that move beyond the usual superficial “where are you from” and “nice weather we’re having today” topics that you can usually run through without a thought.  The problem arises when you really want to get to know each other.

Luckily, people are patient with me and most of the time we work together to figure out what I’m trying to communicate.  We figure it out and I learn something new about how to express myself in Italian. I also tend to communicate with my emotions, gestures and facial expressions, which helps.  And believe me, I’ve been known to make it a game of charades in which I act everything out.  But I long for the day when I can be understood all the time without these extra efforts.  When I can rest assured that I’m expressing my true self to the fullest with my words.

How do you express yourself in your adopted country?

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes at as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

Language Confusion in Switzerland

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Language confusion in Switzerland is nothing new

Language confusion in Switzerland is nothing new

By Chantal Panozzo

Language can be a tricky thing in a country like Switzerland. After all, the tiny country with a population of 7 million has four official languages and many more unofficial dialects. In case you find it confusing, here’s a little guide to help you understand what region you’re in:

Here’s how you know you’re in the German-speaking region:

-People from Germany are as confused as you.

-They write in one language and talk in another.

-There is a lot of fog.

-People don’t understand the people from the next town over because the dialects are that different. But this is on purpose. Secrecy is big in Switzerland—not just in banks.

-How you say “hello” is analyzed to determine what town you’re from.

-If you are not on time you are not worthy.

-Everyone’s eating either wurst or wurst.

Here’s how you know you’re in the French-speaking region:

-The written language is exactly like the spoken one.

-The French-speaking Swiss don’t understand Swiss German and this frustrates them. The Swiss Germans like it this way.

-Everyone speaks French or French.

-Almost every town is on a lake.

-The French Swiss make the watches. The German Swiss obey them.

Here’s how you know you’re in the Italian-speaking region:

-People talk with their hands.

-The buildings are colors like pink, yellow, and orange.

-People eat pizza or pizza.

-Many speak German as a second language. The German that the actual Germans can understand.

-You can actually see the sun.

Here’s how you know you’re in the Romansh-speaking region:

-You think you hear Italian. You think you hear German. You think you hear Latin. But you don’t understand anything.

-There are no young people around.

-You are in the Alps.

-There are a lot of cows.

-Everyone speaks at least one other language.

How about you? How do you determine what section of Switzerland you’re in?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Why Switzerland?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

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Last night I was walking to a movie theater in Zurich when I heard a group of three Americans talking loudly. Ok, loud wasn’t a surprise, but American English was. I’m always amazed how many languages I hear in Switzerland that aren’t even one of the four “official” ones. But when you’ve got a foreign population of around 20%, I guess it’s only natural to hear non-official tongues.

Sometimes I wonder why Switzerland has such a high percentage of foreigners and I’ve come up with the following conclusions:

-Good Pay. Compared to neighboring countries like France, Italy, and Germany, Swiss salaries are higher. Of course, the cost of living in Switzerland is also higher, but nevertheless, it pays to live in Switzerland.

-No Need for a Car. While public transportation is sufficient in most European cities, in Switzerland, it’s good enough even for villages. The Swiss transportation network covers the entire country, from the mountain restaurant in the middle of nowhere to the farm village twenty miles from the nearest city.

-Work/Life Balance. At least compared to the way people work in the United States, there is a much better work/life balance in Switzerland. Family time is respected and valued, and stores and businesses all close down on Sundays and for a week over Christmas.

-Accessibility of Nature. In the U.S., I had to drive to get to the closest hiking trail. But in Switzerland, there are hundreds of paths right outside my door. The Swiss know how to build cities around nature, and so the nearest outdoor adventure is always just a walk away.

-Many Neighbors. Switzerland is bordered by five countries: Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Lichtenstein. All of these countries share an official language with Switzerland, making it easier for people speaking French, German, or Italian to work and live in Switzerland.

Why do you think there are so many foreigners in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger in Zurich, Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland, and Writer Abroad. She also blogs for Affordable Calling Cards, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

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