Switzerland’s linguistic diversity
Switzerland is certainly one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. The diversity of the landscape, it’s history, cultural background and linguistic diversity make this country an unusual place. There is no other place in the world where linguistic diversity is used on a daily basis as often as it is here.
There are four official languages according to the Swiss Federal Constitution:
The question of whether speaking Standard Swiss German is enough for visitors or even for those who want to immigrate can be answered with an ambiguous “yes”. Although German is widely spoken throughout the country, even in administrative offices, people will appreciate your efforts to speak the local dialect which is one of the country’s most distinctive cultural assets.
Switzerland, known as a liberty-loving country, allows each citizen to speak in his or her mother tongue when dealing with the federal administration.
It is also interesting to note that there are only two cantons in Switzerland, namely Bern and the Valais, that have defined linguistic areas. Switzerland’s traditional “Swiss German”, also known as “Schwiizerdütsch”, is another distinctive feature for which Switzerland is so famous.
Schwiizerdütsch is basically a collective term for the dialects located in the German-Swiss areas and has its origin in the Alemannic dialects.
Schwizerdütsch, a unique challenge
Schwizerdütsch is basically divided into subdivisions:
- Low Alemannic German
- High Alemannic German
- and Highest Alemannic German
The different dialects sometimes show strong differences, which is why Swiss German can be said to come from a collection of dialects.
The social aspect of Schwizerdütsch
In no other country on earth is a common language perceived to be a common cultural asset that is then used to express a feeling of belonging together.
Why learn Swiss-German?
The various universities, adult eduction centres and language institutes are full of people who are eager to learn foreign languages. After all… the next time you visit France, you would like to be able to order from the menu yourself, without being told to leave by the Maitre’d. You would like to be able to ask for directions in Spain without being arrested by the Guardia Civil. And is it not also true that you want to use your English skills in the United States? Just like thousands upon thousands upon thousands of others?
Imagine how impressive it would be if you could speak some Swiss German during your next holiday in Switzerland?
Is learning Swiss German a “Mission Impossible”?
It is comparatively rare for non-Swiss people to take an interest in learning this dialect. Consequently, one has to be particularly motivated. It is rare to find someone who is not native to Switzerland who not only understands the Swiss-German language, but who may even be able to speak it. So if you are able to master both, you can be sure that you will be highly regarded by your friends and loved by the Swiss.
P.S. The article “Swiss German for beginners ” is perfect for your first steps into Swiss German.
Approach through a common language
Even if this may sound a bit “exaggerated”, but the Swiss, as well as Americans, the British, Spaniards, Italians and even Russians love it when you speak their language. This is not just a courtesy when visiting a country, it also shows respect for them and their country. There is a strong chance that they will meet one or two Swiss people who will want to “adopt” you just because you are fluent in Swiss German.
If you need more reasons to learn Swiss German, we have summarized some for you in another blog post.
What’s more, it’s better to start today than to wait until tomorrow!