Eric Hayward recalls a personally significant
day in Switzerland...From 1971 until 1977 I was seconded to act as
liaison engineer between the Swiss Federal Aircraft Factory at Emmen
and Hawker Siddeley/British Aerospace, Kingston. I had to travel
frequently between Switzerland and the UK in that period when Hunters
were being refurbished at Kingston and Dunsfold, transported by road to
Emmen and reassembled there by the Factory's employees.
Initially I had no knowledge of the Swiss, or Swiss-German, language
and so the day of my transfer to the new job was approached with some
trepidation. Having been established in my own office at Emmen various
people came in and tried on me what little English they knew (and it
was not much) while I tried to understand them. The problem was that I
did not know at that time whether the person who was trying so hard to
converse with me was the Works Manager or a cleaner. However, as time
went by the borders were slowly crossed and problems were discussed and
solved in a strange English/Swiss/German hybrid language, with a lot of
arm waving and pointing.
What was really my finest hour occurred when my phone rang one day
about a year after I had first arrived at Emmen. I picked it up and the
caller asked whether Mr Inecan was there. I replied "Sorry, but this is
not now his office; if you would care to wait a moment I will give you
his new telephone number," which I duly did. We said our good-byes and
I put the phone down.
On reflection I stopped still when I
realised that the whole conversation had been conducted in very correct
Swiss-German and we had both understood each other perfectly. That was
the point when I had crossed the hidden barrier. To me it was a very
satisfying day. Of course there was an incredible amount more to learn
to become totally fluent but I could now converse and understand; and
more importantly, be understood - an achievement I will always remember.