The following article concerns a policy recently implemented in German-Swiss kindergartens that requires the teaching of children from all ethnic backgrounds in the Schweizerdeutsch dialect. JLH, who translated the piece, includes this brief note:
This article attracted me because it reminded me of the “bilingual” arguments in California and elsewhere and I thought, how much better to make sure that new citizens and their children can deal confidently with their neighbors, business partners and shopkeepers in their own tongue.
The translated article from Blick.ch:
Dialect in Kindergarten: Foreigners Are Happy About the Ban on High German
ZURICH: There has been compulsory dialect* study in Zurich kindergartens for two years. This makes not only conservatives, but also foreign parents happy
Brigitte Fleuti has been a kindergarten teacher for 30 years and is in favor of the dialect initiative in Canton Zurich.
June 2, 2014
“Chaugummi” or “Chätschgummi”**? The class is divided. After the kindergarten teacher, Brigitte Fleuti, has sung about “Chaugummi” in the song “The Policeman’s Tire,” which has a hole and can be repaired with chewing gum, a boy raises his hand and says: “Hey, Mrs. Fleuti, that’s not ‘Chaugummi,’ that’s ‘Chätschgummi’!” Several of the children in the circle nod in agreement.
Since August 2013, teacher and students in Langnau am Albis — as in the entire canton of Zurich — have been speaking Schweizerdeutsch, as will also soon be the case in Aargau, following a similar initiative This continues to instigate discussion from time to time.
Brigitte Fleuti, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Zurich Kindergarten Organization, is happy to lead these discussions.
Schweizerdeutsch is the Basis for Integration
Twenty children from eight countries are in her class. They come from Switzerland, Albania, Spain, Brazil, Chechnya, Germany, Italy and Russia. Fleuti — who has been a kindergarten teacher for 30 years — says: “Schweizerdeutsch is the basis of integration for all of them.” She calls the dialect the language of the heart and of connection, which is crucial for small children.
This is the same argument made by the initiative committee composed of kindergarten and other teachers, and confirmed in the election a year ago. The dialect initiative was opposed but in the end passed with 54% of the vote. “Fortunately,” says Fleuti. “The pressure from certain parents to have their children speaking perfect High German by the end of kindergarten has abated.”
Foreign parents especially profit from this. “Many of them have told me how much it means to them that their children are learning Schweizerdeutsch in kindergarten,” Fleuti says.
Foreign Parents Value the Dialect Requirement
One of them is the mother of 5-year-old Valerie. “I think it is very important for my child to learn dialect in kindergarten,” says her German mother. “That really helps with integration.” She seems “stupid” compared to her daughter when she tries to speak in the dialect. “I still try, but my daughter has to laugh.” Her daughter corrects her, especially in pronunciation.
In the meantime, the chewing gum problem is solved in the sky-blue annex in the center of the village Langnau am Albis. “‘Chaugummi’ or ‘Chätschgummi’ — you can say either,” Fleuti explains to the children. But one question remains unanswered: Can the tire of the policeman’s motorcycle that the class is singing about really be repaired with the pink gum?
|*||The “dialect” mentioned here is “Schwyzerdütsch,” an Alemannic variant of German and in contrast to the Swiss variant of Standard German, which is called Hochdeutsch (High German) or Schriftdeutsch (written German). Schwyzerdütsch is essentially the everyday language of the majority of Swiss who are descended from the German-speakers who expelled the Habsburg Empire. Anecdotes indicate that it was used during WWII as a kind of test for any German-speaker who claimed to be a native Swiss.|
|**||“Ch” is an aspirated “k” sound. The standard German word is “Kaugummi”.