5. Receptive multilingualism in Switzerland and the case of Biel/Bienne

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Switzerland is a multilingual country with four different national languages. A more detailed look, however, shows that on the level of the individual cantons multilingualism is rather an exeption. Only four of the 26 cantons have more than one official language, and even here the areas in which different languages are spoken are separated sharply. This article analyses examples taken from such exceptional cases, Biel/Bienne and Fribourg/Freiburg. The results from the two studies indicate that the ‘Swiss model’ of receptive multlingualism fostered by the Swiss language policy is utilised by the population, even if the default language model preferring the majority language is more widespread. In most cases, however, speakers do not stick to such static models and make use of their linguistic repertoires according to the communicative needs in a given setting.


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