Until now it’s been entirely possible to live and work in Geneva for years without speaking a single word of French.
Some foreigners are hardly able to order a cappuccino or hail a taxi in the local language after years of living here. But all of this is about to change, says Anouche Karaman, founder of Learn French Geneva. We talked to her about the new Swiss language regulations aimed at integrating foreigners.
WHAT ARE THE NEW RULES?
From January 2019 anyone wanting to renew his or her work permit or right to stay in Switzerland needs to show a minimum competency in the local language. In Geneva, this is French, but in other parts of the country, this rule applies to German or Italian.
It has been made clear by the Swiss authorities that they will also encourage employers to hire locally as much as possible in order to discourage foreign labour.
As from January 2019 it is compulsory for people applying for a work permit to prove their enrolment in a language school, if they can’t prove their competency in the local language.
“The golden age of non-French or German (or Italian) foreigners never having to “integrate” locally is well over,” says Anouche, who has been teaching foreigners French (and other languages) since 2005. She now employs 50 teachers across all major cities in Switzerland.
EXPAT SPOUSES NEED TO SPEAK FRENCH
The requirement of speaking a local language also applies to trailing spouses, unless they have a handicap, ailment or mental incapacity. No more excuses!
As this requirement targets the whole family, expat children are subject to learning the local language as well, if they go to international schools, although their competencies will not be tested in the same way. More info here.
HOW WILL YOUR FRENCH BE TESTED?
The internationally recognised DELF and DALF diplomas are used as a benchmark and will be used to measure your competency.
SO, WHAT LEVEL OF FRENCH DO I NEED?
This depends on the type of permit you’re applying for – but for example in order to apply for the right to stay – you need a DELF A1 level of spoken French, whereas for a work permit you need a B1 spoken level and an A2 written level of French.
For a B permit (work permit)A2 oral/A1 written
For a C permit (residence permit) B1 oral/A1 written
For a Citizenship B1 oral/A2 written
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN FRENCH?
The number of hours it takes to reach a certain level of French, according to Learn French Geneva, is set out below:
80 hours from absolute beginner level A0
160 hours from beginner level A0
(100 hours from DELF A1)
310 hours from beginner level A0
(150 hours from DELF A2)
490 hours from beginner level A0
(180 hours from DELF B1)
690 hours from beginner level A0
(200 hours from DELF B2)
890 hours from beginner level A0
(200 hours from DALF C1)
The hours don’t just reflect pure language training (classes with a teacher) but include homework, comprehension (listening to the target language in whatever shape or form: TV, movies, series, radio) and immersion (mingling with locals like social events, sport activities, everyday task).
HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO LEARN FRENCH?
“We know that busy schedules often do not allow newly settled expats to take the time and try to learn French in a conventional way, in a group in a classroom, far from work or home,” says Anouche.
This is why Learn French teachers will come to you – anywhere – at work, at home, any day of the week, from 8 am to 9 pm, even in the countryside.
They also offer intensive classes to speed up your learning.
INTENSIVE PREMIER PACKAGE
These courses are particularly suitable for people who need to learn French quickly. Learn French guarantees that you will jump to the next level of DELF or DALF exams in JUST ONE WEEK. So if you were an A1 you are guaranteed to be an A2 after one week.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The Premium Package will allow you to work daily and intensively with a highly experienced tutor for five days.
You will learn French with a private teacher 5 hours a day (excluding a short lunch break) of French custom-tailored language coaching.
This method, based on a thorough diagnosis of your strengths and weaknesses, offers to guide you all along with a uniquely targeted program, comprising all fields required to improve in any language.
GET A 10% DISCOUNT ON LEARN FRENCH GENEVA INTENSIVE COURSE PACKAGE by quoting Thingstodoingeneva when you book your course.
WHAT MAKES LEARN FRENCH DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SCHOOLS?
“Our approach covers linguistics, etymology, diction, expression, comprehension. We use your own mother tongue and show you the mechanisms involved allowing you to switch almost seamlessly to French. English and French have 60% of words in common. It doesn’t have to be that difficult,” says Anouche.
The highly qualified and experienced teachers, all of whom have been expats at some point in their lives (hence have walked in an expat’s shoes), will teach anywhere – at the student’s home or work, as long as there is access to wi-fi or Internet.
“We mix many different techniques according to levels and needs and our teaching evolves with the student’s progress. Computer use and wi-fi is absolutely compulsory: it provides your own access to our state of the art website with all the online books we work with, to over 3000 exercises, so that you can study autonomously and effectively at your own pace wherever you are.”