Analysis of the standing of German in Fribourg and its possible status as an official language

Project management

Laura Hodel

01.2017 - 12.2017
History, Institutions, Policy
Commissioned by: Ville de Fribourg

The standing of German in the Canton and City of Fribourg has been a topic of public debate for decades. Currently, French and German are official languages of the canton, and their use is anchored in the constitution; moreover, it is possible for communes “with a significant traditional linguistic minority” to use both French and German as official languages (art. 6 para. 3). Nevertheless, an implementation act specifying the criteria and legal procedures has not yet been drafted. Indeed, experts have been discussing a variety of mainly statistical, historical and territorial criteria since the 1980s.

In the recent past, the City of Fribourg has made several steps towards greater inclusion of the German language, for instance, in street signage, official publications and cultural promotion. And growing emphasis on the benefits of bilingualism has led to increased political pressure to promote bilingualism not only with regard to the communes but also in the form of bilingual teaching models in compulsory schooling.

On behalf of the City of Fribourg and following a postulate of the General council (no. 23), the Institute is assessing the question of German as an official language in the City of Fribourg. While the focus is placed on language in the municipal administration, other important social domains (schools, daily communication, culture and industry) are also considered. A summary statement on the status quo will provide the starting point for identifying the challenges that arise through introducing official bilingualism and for determining what alternatives exist.