Multilingualism under the spotlight
10 November 2015
Cardiff University's School of Welsh played host to His Excellency Mr. Dominik Furgler, Swiss Ambassador to the United Kingdom on Friday 23 October 2015.
Ambassador Furgler was in Wales to present the Swiss Ambassador’s Award Concert at the Wales Millennium Centre. This year the Award went to the Swiss Duo Viviane Chassot (accordion) and David Pia (cello). Cardiff has, with London, Belfast and Edinburgh, become a regular venue on the Award Winner’s concert tour.
More than 45 people attended Ambassador Furgler’s presentation, which centred on multilingualism in Switzerland. There are four official languages in Switzerland – German, French, Italian and Romansh, which is a Romance language derived from the Latin spoken language of the Roman Empire. It is compulsory for schoolchildren to learn at least one of the other official languages which encourages high rates of bilingualism.
The topic was of interest to the School of Welsh and the assembled guests given Wales’ own rich language and cultural heritage, including its regional dialectal forms.
Welcoming the Ambassador to Cardiff, Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chriost, a member of the Language, Policy and Planning Research Unit at the School of Welsh, said: "We would like to thank Ambassador Furgler for taking the time to visit us at the School of Welsh.
"Switzerland has an interesting history of cultural, political and linguistic development. The Ambassador’s presentation provides us with a fascinating insight into multilingualism and the preservation of language, as well as a curious comparator for our own experiences in Wales.
“Language is a key research area for the School and one where we have achieved considerable success. Many of our staff are working on projects concerned with language planning and acquisition as well as dialects and sociolinguistics. The School is also part of a project, running in partnerships with the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, concerned with language preservation and developing the first large scale corpus of the Welsh language.”
Discussing his visit to Cardiff University, Ambassador Furgler said:“While multilingualism can only be fully assessed against the backdrop of each country’s specific situation and may cause serious challenges, there is no doubt that it creates huge opportunities and benefits, be it on the cultural, intellectual or economic level. For Switzerland it is therefore crucial to invest in language training (including English), cultural and linguistic exchange, the mobility of its people or the integration of immigrants. Multilingualism is a cornerstone of the Swiss national identity.”
Ambassador Furgler took up his position in July 2013 and has a long and distinguished diplomatic career. He has previously served as Ambassador to Egypt having first joined the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in 1985.