Switzerland is a linguist's delight. The variations in languages and nuances in dialects complement the diversity in this tiny country.
Thousands of tourists find their way around easily with English. Then, expats go through bouts of culture shock when English takes a back step. Language can be a barrier, but once you are comfortable with it, you will look at life differently in Switzerland.
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to understand a culture is to absorb the local language. And when it comes to the Swiss, language is a matter of pride. Locals expect Ausländer to make an effort to learn their Sprache. So, as the Newly Swissed settle in their new communities, they should not neglect picking up German, French or Italian.
Lernzentrum Turner in Horgen
Jessica Turner has been running Lernzentrum Turner in Horgen since January 2015. Unlike many of the franchise language schools, LZT is more of a boutique language lab. Jessica's team of motivated and highly skilled teachers believe in a curriculum that teaches communication skills for all spheres of Swiss life.
"People approach teaching German from the angle of grammar, yet an environment to speak the language is needed most. This includes corrections of errors without embarrassing someone, getting feedback on the language without feeling under pressure. The basic aim is to make the clients feel confident in dealing with day-to-day life where the local language is needed," explains Jessica.
Like many expats, Jessica had enrolled in language schools to learn Hochdeutsch. Her motivation was not to appear as a "moron" in front of the locals when shopping for groceries. Jessica does not estimate her German skills to be at a very high level - yet she feels that she has come a long way since arriving in Switzerland in 2008.
"I am an English teacher and I moved to Horgen with my Swiss husband. I was looking at a place to teach English more locally, without having to travel to the Zürich. This opened up the opportunity for someone to teach German alongside me."
A mother of two daughters, Jessica knew the importance of work-life balance. The challenges of opening a new language centre are plenty, considering there are hundreds of them in Zürich. At the same time, Jessica was confident that her philosophy would fill a real need, distinguishing her from other schools.
"I knew that I wanted to stay in Horgen. The quality of teaching German in a smaller environment would be unique. Hence, I chose the name Lernzentrum instead of Sprachschule."
An immersive teaching method
Jessica stresses the difference in teaching methodologies: "It is different from how we teach in the English speaking world. I wanted to bring my experience of teaching into play."
Lernzentrum Turner is not just a language centre. It is immersive in that they plan "German only" activities like coffee mornings or wine sampling sessions that mirror real-life scenarios.
Jessica specifically talks about expats who have lived in Zürich long enough and have yet to learn the language: "There are two types of people who come to us. The first group are in a professional environment and need Deutsch at work. Or they might come to improve their skills in order to progress further up in their career."
"Secondly, there are those who have been living here for more than 5 to 8 years. They seek a different sort of space to learn the language, without having to feel embarrassed about how long they have been here. They want to get over the mental barriers about learning German."
Lernzentrum Turner promises an individual framework for each learner, setting Jessica’s centre apart from the rest. "We believe each individual within a small group has a different set of expectations. We recognize that and sit down to create frameworks in order to satisfy the requests we get from our clients."
We tour her learning labs and I notice the state-of-the-art infrastructure. Jessica belief of embracing the Internet to supplement traditional teaching methods has helped in creating interactive sessions. "We have reached a stage where the web can no longer be ignored. Smart phones and tablet computers accompany us everywhere we go. So, why not embrace them and use them along traditional forms of learning?"
Jessica understands there is competition. However, she knows how to stay relevant and offer customized solutions for her customers. And she plans to grow her business organically, ensuring she does not miss out on all the fun her young family provides.
I was curious to check out the assessment tests here at Lernzentrum Turner. Had I made progress with my learning? (I have.)
I ask Jessica one final question: "Why should I choose Lernzentrum Turner?"
She smiles and adds: "More than the business, I believe we emphasize on taking care of our students, providing a personal touch to the needs of our learners."
(This article has been sponsored by Lernzentrum Turner)