Campus - 25.02.2019 - 00:00 

Grüezi, Zdravo and Hello!

Day in, day out, students and teachers from all sorts of different origins meet on the campus. In the corridors, you don’t only hear Swiss German and High German, but also other languages like English, French and Italian. For university members to learn, improve and brush up a wide variety of languages, the HSG offers free conversation courses. By student reporter Anna Kati Schreiter.

25 February 2019. The international character of the University of St.Gallen can be evidenced by lots of facts and figures. Thus students from more than 80 nations are enrolled at the HSG, and approx. 50 per cent of professors are foreign nationals. Also, about half the students spend at least one semester abroad during their studies. The more than 200 partner universities can be found all over the world.

Preparation for the exchange semester

Students who want to prepare themselves intensively for a stay abroad are able to make use of one of the total of 28 free conversation courses, which at present are offered in 14 different languages, as well as at different levels. The courses primarily focus on conversation, i.e. the spoken language. In addition, they aim to familiarise participants with the corresponding country’s culture to a certain extent.

The basic idea

When the conversation courses were offered for the first time in 2005, their main purpose was to support the regular language courses. The idea was to create additional opportunities for students to improve their spoken language. Today, the content of the courses exceeds this initial basic idea – "intentionally," says Andreas Vogel, who among other things runs the conversation courses at the University’s Language Center. "Culture is enormously important. You can have as good a command of a language as you like, but if you don’t understand the culture, that won’t get you very far." With the conversation courses, the University contributes to the reinforcement of intercultural competence among students. All the conversation courses are held by student native speakers of the HSG. This should enable contact "at eye-level", says Andreas Vogel.

Language courses of a special kind

The two courses in Swiss German and Business English stand out particularly. While Swiss nationals don’t have any difficulty understanding High German, problems often occur the other way round. As a German, I myself found it very difficult initially to understand Swiss German. Without social contacts with local people I still wouldn’t know today what nach em Schaffe no schnell go Teigware fürs Z’Nachtesse go poste z gah means. The Master’s student Sascha Duric, who grew up multilingually, doesn’t only run the BCMS conversation course (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian), but also the conversation course in Swiss German. "There aren’t any stereotypical course participants. Students attend conversation courses for a wide variety of reasons. The conversation course in Swiss German isn’t only attended by Germans, who understand the language better, but also by people from French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland."

Business English

In later day-to-day work, skills in English which go far beyond everyday language will become increasingly important, depending on the company someone works for and his or her position in it. The conversation course in Business English therefore primarily focuses on economic issues. However, the actual content of the individual courses can be co-determined by the participants themselves.


Permanent attendance at a conversation course requires registration on the homepage. Also, students of the HSG and the FH can apply for the post of course leaders. Courses in further languages may be in demand at any time. The conversation courses will continue from 4 March onwards.

Anna Kati Schreiter is a second-semester student of Economic Sciences at the University of St.Gallen.

Photo: Adobe Stock / terovesalainen

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