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Foreign residents urged to learn a Swiss language

Anyone who wants to live in Switzerland, including top executives, should learn a Swiss language and know about the Swiss way of life, says a Swiss minister.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told German-language Swiss radio on Saturday that although Switzerland needs foreign workers – areas like agriculture and care work could not do without them, for example – it has probably underestimated some of the social impact that they have had.

Not enough attention has been paid to integrating such foreigners, including those who have come to take up well-paid employment.

She said people had spoken to her recently at public meetings about the “parallel society” in which some foreign CEOs are living. “They couldn’t care less about Swiss traditions. They send their children to international schools, speak English, write their letters in English and have no interest in what’s going on in the country around them.”

She said people can’t be forced to integrate; rather, both sides need to reach out to each other.

“I think the most important thing is language. If you can’t speak a country’s language, you can’t reach out, you don’t know your rights, you don’t know your duties.”

While praising specific projects to involve immigrants from different countries in Swiss life, she said she hoped that foreign managers and their wives would also make the effort to learn to speak and to discover how Switzerland works.

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SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR