Language and interpretation skills for Zurich and Geneva law students

All federal laws in Switzerland are published in German, French and Italian. The three versions have equal standing. The comparative linguistic interpretation method is thus a unique feature of Swiss legal doctrine. Lawyers must be able to compare the different versions and to draw normative inferences from them. Furthermore, approximately 95% of the jurisprudence of the Federal Supreme Court is rendered either in French or German. There are no official translations of these judgments. Understanding German and French is therefore an indispensable prerequisite for any Swiss lawyer.

Our project aims at enabling law students of Geneva and Zurich to understand federal acts and jurisprudence in German and French. We achieve this goal by a language exchange. For several years already the professors André Kuhn (UniGE/UniNE) and Yvan Jeanneret (UniGE) have taught criminal law courses in French at the University of Zurich, while professor Marc Thommen (UZH) has taught criminal procedure in German at the University of Neuchâtel. This initiative has been very well received by the students on both sides of the Sarine.

As a first step we would like to extend this program to the University of Geneva and to make it a permanent part of the criminal law/criminal procedure curricular. Secondly, we would use the funds to invite our colleagues to teach civil and public law in their native language at the other university. The long-term goal would be that law students of the University of Zurich get familiarized with the French legal language and that the law students of the University of Geneva acquire legal language and interpretation skills in German.


Prof. Marc Thommen, University of Zurich

Prof. Yvan Jeanneret, University of Geneva

Prof. André Kuhn, University of Geneva/Neuchâtel