The city outlined its decision on its website on Tuesday, highlighting the fact that each year more than 20,000 new residents move to Geneva, many of whom are not francophone.
“Multilingualism constitutes a reality in a city like Geneva,” it said, adding that “language should not be a barrier to obtaining public services.”
After meeting with targeted groups of foreigners in the city, officials from the department of social cohesion and solidarity decided to translate key documents into the five languages most commonly spoken in Geneva after French.
Apart from English, the languages are Portuguese, Spanish, Albanian and Arabic.
Lack of official information in English has long been a bugbear for anglophones in Geneva, which is home to the UN’s European headquarters and more than 40 international organizations, many of whom use English as a primary language.
Members of city council, headed by mayor Esther Alder, said they recognized it was essential that Geneva assume its status as an international city and address itself to the numerous foreign communities that live there.
“International civil servants, expats and migrants today need to understand without delay the major formalities linked to their arrival,” the website news release said.
“Experience shows that translations of basic documents facilitate integration and positively influence people who are subsequently able to better exercise their rights and their obligations toward the community.”
The documents to be translated include information about steps for new residents to take, in addition to information about children’s daycare services, neighbourhood centres, public works, libraries and culture and sports services.
Since December 2015, multilingual services have been available at four information centres in the city, with help from different language association groups.