Languages of Switzerland

Languages of Switzerland

Languages of Switzerland are unique like the beautiful country. If you are looking for a country that is home to several linguistic communities that have managed to live together in a peaceful co-existence country is Switzerland.

People are naturally attracted to Switzerland because of the harmony between the people who live in the country. Therefore, we shall be taking a journey into the languages spoken in the country to prepare your mind for a visit to the country.

There are four nationally recognized languages in Switzerland. Though speakers of the language can be found throughout the country, they are specifically confined to some regions in the country. We shall take a look at them one after the other:

We shall take a look at them one after the other:

Languages of Switzerland - Map of Switzerland

Swiss German Language

This language is the widest spoken among the four national languages of Switzerland, and it a language of about 60% of the population in the country. It is commonly referred to as Schwyzerdütsch by the locals, and the language is a collection of Alemannic dialects that are no longer spoken in Germany or Australia. (Find out languages & dialects of Germany).

There are many spoken versions of the language. The variety that you are going to hear in Basel is different from the version that is spoken in Zurich. They are individually promoted in the country; you will likely run into crisis if you attempt to speak this dialect with the locals because of the several versions of the language.

The Swiss are taught standard German right from the early stages in schools, which is why they can communicate effectively with Germans, Austrians, and other German speakers.

Let’s watch this Swiss German song and analyze how Swiss German and Standard German differ.

Video: Swiss German song

From the song above, let’s compare the original lyrics in Swiss German with Standard German.

Swiss GermanStandard German
nimm mich i arm & drück mich fescht a dich & la mi nummä los
ich tanke mich grad a dier uf, will’s eifach so guet tued
ich ha di gärn, ich bruchä dich, ja ich bi süchtig nach diär
doch garantiä chan ich diär keini gä, dass es für immer so wird si

ewigi liäbi – das wünsch ich diär
ewigi liäbi – das wünsch ich miär
ewigi liäbi – numä für üs zwei
ewigi liäbi – fühl mich bi dier dehäi

säg nid für immer & säg nid niä, ich gibä alles für dich uf
di blick hed igschlagä i mis härz, hesch mich zum brännä bracht
troffä vo dem stromstoss, wo so guet tued, würdi alles machä,
alles gä, alles für dich tuä, ich la dich nümmä los

ewigi liäbi …

ich weiss, liäbi chunnt & gad, wiene cherzä schmelzt sie wäg
ja, wienäs lied hört sie eifach uf oder sie haut eifach ab
niemmer seid, es sigi liecht, es isch es einzigs gäh & näh
s’git kei verlüürer oder gwünner i dem würfelschpiel…

ewigi liäbi …
Nimm mich in den Arm und drücke mich fest an Dich und lasse mich nicht mehr los
Ich tanke mich geradezu an Dir auf weil es einfach so gut tut
Ich habe Dich gern, ich brauche Dich, ja ich bin süchtig nach Dir
Doch kann ich Dir keine Garantien geben, dass es für mich immer so sein wird

Ewige Liebe – das wünsche ich Dir
Ewige Liebe – das wünsche ich mir
Ewige Liebe – nur für uns zwei
Ewige Liebe – ich fühle mich bei dir zuhause

Sag nicht “für immer” und sage nicht “nie”, ich gebe für Dich alles auf
Dein Blick hat in mein Herz eingschlagen Du hast mich zum Brennen gebracht
Getroffen vom Stromschlag, der so wohl tut, würde ich alles machen,
Alles geben, alles für Dich tun, ich lasse Dich nicht mehr los.

Ewige Liebe…

Ich weiss, Liebe kommt und geht, wie eine Kerze schmilzt sie weg
Ja, sie hört einfach auf wie ein Lied oder sie haut einfach ab
Niemand sagt, es sei einfach, es ist ein einziges Geben und Nehmen
Es gibt weder Verlierer noch Sieger in diesem Würfelspiel

Ewige Liebe…

Such differences can be observed in all four national languages of Switzerland.


Romansh Language

Romansh is yet another national language in today’s Switzerland that came into official recognition in 1996.

Romansh is the smallest of the national languages with an estimated 37,000 speakers, and international travellers to the country often overlook it. Romansh is the language in the south-eastern canton of Grisons in the country, and it is used in schools and as a means of communication in government circles.

Romansh is a Romance language; despite a small community of speakers, this language can also boast five dialects. Unfortunately, attempts by the Grisons government to harmonize the dialects are not yielding desired fruits among the locals. In terms of popularity among the four national languages of Switzerland, Romansh takes 4th place.


Swiss Italian Language

Swiss Italian is the language spoken in the south of the country along the border with Italy is the base of the speakers of this dialect. The speakers of this dialect represent about 8% of the population. There are about 350,000 speakers of this dialect in the country.

This language can be understood by any Italian or student of the Italian language. The Italian spoken here is very close to standard Italian through several dialect versions such as Ticinese and other Lombard-influenced dialects.

The Swiss Italian can be distinguished from standard Italian with the inclusion of calques into the dialect.


Swiss French Language

In the western part of the country, the language that holds sway in the country is Swiss-French. The speakers account for about 20% of the population in the country.

If you intend to go to Geneva or Lausanne, you have to come along with your French translator because these international destinations are predominantly French-speaking. The difference between this dialect and standard French is not much; there is only a small thin line of differences between the two.

EnglishStandard French (France)Swiss French
hey/byesalutadieu
ATMdistributeur automatique de billetsbancomat
plastic bagsac en plastiquecornet
breakfastpetit-déjeunerdejeuner
lunchdéjeunerdiner
dinnerdinersouper
rainpluieroye
eightyquatre-vingtshuitante

The Bilingual Population In Switzerland

Talking about the four national languages of Switzerland, only a few of the speakers are Bilingual in Switzerland. Going by the stats gotten through a study in 2014, it was discovered that only 2% of the population is found to be bilingual. They can speak both German and French. If those that use the two languages on the streets and at work are included, the percentage will rise to 7.5.

If people who can combine both Italian and German languages are considered, the figure shows 1.8%. However, talking about those who can speak three languages; German, French and Italian, the percentage of speakers is just 0.2%, according to the 2014 figures. Therefore, 1.8% of the population can use the language in their business and daily interactions.

Read Also: Comparison between French and German for new learners.


The Bilingual Cantons In Switzerland

We have four of such cantons in Switzerland, and each of them has two official languages; they are:

  • Bern (German and French)
  • Fribourg (German and French)
  • Valais (French and German)
  • Graubünden (German, Romansh, and Italian).

We have two bilingual cities in Switzerland. They are Biel/Bienne and Fribourg, and you are going to find German and French as spoken languages in the two cities.


Foreign Languages of Switzerland

There are foreign languages that are spoken in the country. The stats in this category are: 

  • English language which makes about 5.4% of the population in the country.
  • Portuguese (3.7 percent) 
  • Albanian (3.2 percent).

Conclusion: Languages of Switzerland

If you want to flex your muscles as a multilingual tourist traveler, this is the country because of the diversity on offer.

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