Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 16, April 2008

Alexander Bischoff and Janine Dahinden

Dolmetschen, Vermitteln und Schlichten im vielsprachigen Basel. Umgang mit Diversität und Fremdsprachigkeit – Umfrage unter Leitungspersonen öffentlicher Institutionen


Survey among senior staff persons of public institutions in the city of Basel, Switzerland on coping with diversity and foreign languages

As European countries become more diverse, so do the client populations in public institutions. Switzerland has, like all modern societies, been affected by major cultural and social changes, characterised by a pluralisation of lifestyles, ways of life, languages and value systems. For Swiss society as a whole and for its public institutions, this raises questions about how this pluralistic society can be held together and, more specifically, how the integration of members of immigrant groups can be supported. Integration is to be understood here as the creation of an institutional framework for social pluralism and the establishment of equal rights and non-discrimination. In practical terms, this means that everyone living in Switzerland should have equal access to the services of public institutions and that the services that these institutions offer should take into account the needs of different communities. One instrument that can contribute effectively to the inclusion of immigrant communities is intercultural mediation. By this we include three forms of mediation: linguistic mediation (interpreting), cultural mediation and conflict mediation. How do public institutions deal with diversity characterised by migration and foreign languages? Basel, one of the larger Swiss cities, is a case in point. With a high proportion of foreigners among the resident population (31%), Basel’s public institutions have been dealing with the increasing diversity of their clientele in different ways. One of them is the use of interpreters, cultural mediators and conflict mediators.

Keywords: Interpreting, intercultural mediation, conflict mediation

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