BERN, SWITZERLAND – The delicate balance of languages in Switzerland is being questioned in one of its most basic institutions, the military, reports the Tribune de Geneve. The number of French-speaking officers coming out of the military academy at the federal polytechnic institute in Zurich (ACAMIL) has just reached a new low: zero. Most years there are one or two graduates who are French-speaking, Denis Froidevaux, president of the Swiss society of officers, told the Geneva newspaper, but given that French-speakers are 20 percent of the population the school should be graduated at least five a year.
A multilingual army is traditionally considered a core element in Switzerland’s balance of cultures, but after a major re-organization of the army in 2000 German became the language of instruction for officers, Froidevaux notes. He points to several factors, including no manuals in French and no schools for recruits in bilingual canton Valais, for the drop in French language officers.