by George Popescu
Whether you want to enjoy the experience of learning a foreign language for research or for personal purpose, the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) and UNIL (Universite de Lausanne) language centres in Switzerland are excellent alternatives and offer a great variety of study possibilities.
Quickly learning French, German or Italian for basic use
PhD students often and rapidly get very focused on their daily research tasks. However, graduates coming from non-French speaking areas of the world or in Europe face the difficulty of finding a house, ordering food at the restaurant or at a bar or even signing official papers in the local language. In such cases, fluency in English is not enough. This is why the language centre of EPFL and UNIL strive to offer PhD students excellent learning conditions that will allow them to rapidly learn French (German or Italian) according to their own pace. Find more language learning courses all over the world.
Where can you get support for learning the language?
Starting to learn a foreign language can be a difficult task, more difficult than writing a program or a research proposal. It requires listening and comprehension skills as well as the necessary patience. Since the graduates language level ranges on a way wider scale than for children, it is necessary that each student makes progress at own will and responsibility.
The Language Centre of EPFL is accessible for anyone. The presentation video on this page summarizes well all the numerous opportunities offered to the attendees. The main advantage is financial discounts offered to PhD students or any other faculty employees. The Staff Training Service (STS) pays 50% of the tuition sum, the unit or department to which the PhD student is affiliated another 30% and the employee the remaining 20%. Another important criterion is the social aspect. Professional and personal bounds are developed between participants in a usual class of around 15-20 persons. When learning a new language individuals need to express themselves in simple words in the language they learn. This is how they discover the hobbies of others (e.g. sports, research interest, etc.).
Moreover, the University of Lausanne offers a larger set of options for PhDs thinking of learning a new language. Compared with the EPFL Language Centre which offers only courses in English, French, German and Italian, UNIL Language Centre includes additionally Chinese, Spanish, Russian and even Swiss German.
Language course format in Lausanne
As a learning modality, there exist intensive modules (usually ranging for 4 weeks in summer and winter), normal modules (one-semester period) and guided individual training sessions in the multimedia centres. The last option is very beneficial for self-learning. Students access online materials such as books, recordings and interactive exercises that they solve individually. A library with language books is available for them for more study.
In addition to the above-scheduled language-learning program, EPFL and UNIL propose to their students the TANDEM experience. Tandem is an informal program that connects students among themselves. The condition is that they would offer their proficient language skills for their native language in return of learning something new from another native. For instance, a Swiss student might teach a Russian student German language in return of learning the basics of the Russian language. Training sessions are to be agreed among the pairs of students at their most convenient times. In this way, one Ph.D. student can get immersed into another culture and learn the basic notions, such as numbers, common expressions, directions, etc.