I come from Sri Lanka and formerly worked as a journalist there. I want to join the media here, but I’ve had problems due to language issues. The government only provides me with German courses, they will not let me go to journalism school or to the university. What should I do?
Unfortunately, problems due to language issues are not a unique situation to foreigners living in Switzerland. Even the Swiss are often confused and speak to each other in non-official languages like English (except the French-speaking Swiss. They may know other languages, but they only and ever speak French).
Despite her 2.5 years of German language training, the Frau has accepted that she will never be able to be a German journalist or German copywriter. No matter how well you learn and speak a language, writing in it professionally is something that very few can do well as non-native speakers. That’s why so many companies in Switzerland seek native speakers for certain jobs.
The Frau knows she is fortunate to speak English as a native language and be able to continue her writing career because there are English publications in Switzerland. Even so, there aren't that many, so she still must look outside of Switzerland for opportunities. Let’s just say the Frau will not be writing for the NZZ anytime soon.
The Frau would never tell anyone to give up, only that as a non-native English, German, French, and Italian speaker, she thinks you have a tough road ahead as a journalist writing for Swiss publications. Competition for jobs these days is tight enough and as a writer, your language skills must be near perfect. Even the Frau worries she might misspell things and this freaks her out.
The Frau’s advice would be to try to continue to work for your former newspaper in Sri Lanka. Do they need international news? Could you be their Swiss or European correspondent? Could you write travel articles about Europe for other Sri Lanken publications? As a writer abroad, you must learn to be creative in ways writers in their home countries don't have to be. Try to think outside the box. The other option is to reinvent yourself completely and think of other things you love and could do in Switzerland with less barriers to employment.
Whew. The Frau hopes she's not being discouraging here, just realistic. Anyone else have advice for our Sri Lankan journalist? Feel free to disagree with the Frau's advice. How have some of you reinvented yourselves abroad?