Multilingualism in the City of Geneva

Photo: TDG
Photo: TDG
By Camille Saadé, traducción española Evelyne Filip
21 April 2016

What to do in a city where you do not know the language to have access to information? How to find out about the different services and benefits provided by the institutions that may concern you? It is now possible in the City of Geneva, where the Municipal Administration, with the support of ICVolunteers and other associations, has implemented a pilot project of translation for different supports. The objective is to promote access to municipal services for a broader public and to fill the language gap. Through its MigraLingua program, ICV has provided coordinated support and translation into five languages; English, Spanish, Portuguese, Albanian and Arabic, as well as for other documents in a targeted way, including Tigrigna and Somali.

At ICV, we understand the importance of communication and its limitations. By intervening daily through our community interpreters, we understand well the difficulties faced by newcomers and migrants with regard to the language barriers. Each year in Geneva, 20’000 new people are settling in and 15% of the inhabitants claim to not understand any national Swiss language. As they do not have the keys to understand the information, they risk not accessing the benefits that are available to them. Moreover, the lack of knowledge about their rights and duties, as well as the rules of conduct, can be a source of misunderstanding and confusion. In this perspective, the Mayor of Geneva, Esther Alder, joined by the Administrative Councilors Guillaume Barazzone and Sami Kanaan, have revealed on February 9th during a press conference, the actions taken in favor of multilingualism, work that began two years ago, in close collaboration with different partners. 

For our team, everything started in April 2014, when we welcomed to the Arcade different stakeholders of the project as part of a training session.  Brought together by the Department of Social Cohesion and Solidarity, representatives of Spanish, Portuguese, Somali and Arabic-speaking communities focused on the issues of integration and information needs. Results of the research allowed the Department to determine what where the key information areas.

Subsequently, during the year 2015, an important collaborative effort had been carried out between the different services involved and administrative and promotional documents have been translated by our services. Whether you are interested by the activities of Community Centres, of the Early Childhood Bureau of Information, sport programmes or public libraries, you can now flip through the pages and read them in five languages!

The translation aspect is just one part of the multilingualism policy advocated by the Municipality. Multilingual Permanence was installed in December 2015 around Infoservices Points. ICV interpreters have participated during the welcome ceremony for new inhabitants. Other measures will follow, always with the objective to offer a first support and to favor the integration of foreign communities. 

More information about MigraLingua:

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