By Isobel Leybold-Johnson, Julie Hunt in Basel
Foreigners moving to canton Basel City receive a voucher for free German lessons, paid for by the canton – in a scheme that is unique in Switzerland. The aim is to increase integration. But not everyone is making use of the voucher yet.
It’s a grey November day in Basel. At the Inlingua language school in the centre of the city, four women are taking part in their intermediate level German class. The topic: healthy living. The women, in pairs, discuss eating and stress. There is lots of participation; the pupils are highly motivated.
Some of them have the Basel City vouchers, making them among the crop of new immigrants with a B residency permit (resident foreign nationals from the EU/EFTA, valid for five years) who can attend up to 80 free German lessons during their first year in the canton. The scheme has been in place since August 2015, with the vouchers having been issued since May of that year.
More than a thousand immigrants have now taken advantage of free German courses for new arrivals in the city of Basel.
Inlingua reports an increase in students, mainly expats, since the scheme started.
It’s a similar story at ECAP Basel, an institution for the training of adult foreigners of all nationalities. Since last August, 89 voucher students have taken the intensive German beginners course. Marion Kussmaul, who heads the intensive German department at the school, says it’s mainly women and the well-educated who have attended her courses. Often they have come with their families or are looking for a job.