English is the most important foreign language in Switzerland, according to the findings of the latest national census, released on Thursday.This content was published on December 19, 2002 - 17:04
Some 40 languages are spoken in Switzerland, but of the four national languages only French has seen the number of speakers rise in the past decade.
The 2000 census shows that one per cent of the population speaks English as their main language, with most speakers based in the cities of Zurich, Basel and Geneva.
The census found that between 1990 and 2000, the French-speaking population increased by 12.4 per cent to 1.49 million. They now account for 20.4 per cent of the population.
The number of German speakers remained almost constant at 63.7 per cent, but that was thanks to an increase in foreigners who speak the language. The number of Swiss nationals who have German as their main tongue fell slightly over the decade.
Speakers of Italian, who constituted ten per cent of the population back in 1990, now make up only 6.5 per cent.
Switzerland's fourth national language - Romansh - also lost ground. Fewer than 35,100 people considered it their main language in 2000, a decrease of more than ten per cent over the decade.
The number of foreigners speaking a Swiss national language has jumped by almost six per cent to 62.3 per cent. Most of the increase is accounted for by second-generation Swiss.
The Federal Statistical Office, which compiled the census, says the increase is the result of solid integration policies in Swiss schools.
However, nine per cent of the population does not speak a Swiss national language, the same percentage as ten years ago.
Russian, Albanian and African languages have seen the largest growth rate among foreign languages since the last census.
Some 40 foreign languages are spoken in Switzerland.
About 63.7 per cent of the Swiss population consider German their main language, compared to 20.4 per cent for French, 6.5 per cent for Italian and 0.5 per cent Romansh.
swissinfo with agencies
One per cent of the population speaks English as their main language.
The French-speaking population increased by 12.4 per cent to 1.49 million in the 1990s.
The number of German speakers remained almost constant at 63.7 per cent.
The number of foreigners speaking a national language rose by almost six per cent over the decade.
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