One country, four languages
8.42 million people live in Switzerland in an area of 41,285 km². Despite its small size, Switzerland has four official languages. In addition to High German, French, Italian and Romansh are spoken. And what about Swiss German?
Swiss German is not an official language
Swiss German of course also exists, but not as an official language. Swiss German is not a coded language, but refers to all possible Alemannic dialects spoken in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. The word Alemannic refers to German or West Germanic dialects. Thus, Swiss German is nothing other than the collective term for German dialects in Switzerland. And that is why it cannot count as an official language in Switzerland.
Swiss High German – the same as Swiss German?
In addition to Swiss German, there is also so-called Swiss High German in Switzerland. However, this is a standard variety – just like the Austrian High German. This means that it is a variant of the German language with certain rules that are recorded in writing and clearly define what is right and what is wrong. By the way, these rules are defined and maintained by the Swiss Association for the German Language. To avoid confusion, the German Hochdeutsch spoken in Germany is also a standard variety and is on the same level as the Swiss Hochdeutsch. Therefore, Swiss German and Swiss High German are not the same!
Helvetisms – Inherited words
As in most standard varieties, there are also differences in Swiss High German in various linguistic areas, for example in grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary. Words or expressions recorded by the Swiss Duden Committee are called Helvetisms. Some of these Helvetisms can be understood quite well with High German as the mother tongue, while others are more difficult. Helvetisms are only used in Switzerland and are not known in High German in Germany.
A few examples:
- After getting up, many Swiss eat a “Morgenessen”. In High German, “Frühstück”
- In the evening the Swiss have “Abendessen”. In High German it is called “Abendbrot”
- The so popular “Hacktätschli”in Switzerland are called in Germany “Frikadelle/Bulette”
- And while in Switzerland you drink “Hahnenwasser”, in Germany you drink “Leitungswasser”
We love our “Velo”
Another big difference between Swiss High German and German High German are the Helvetisms, which have their origin in French. This is due to the geographical proximity to France.
|Swiss High German||High German||English|
A few rules that will make your life easier
There is no official grammar for Swiss German, but there are a few rules that you can follow and that make learning Swiss German a little easier. Here are the most important differences between Swiss German an High German:
The German “au” becomes “uu” / “u” in Swiss German
As you can see, we have usually determined that it can also become a “u”. Whether you write the word with one or two u is a matter of taste.
|Schweizerdeutsch «u»||Hochdeutsch «au»||English|
The German “K” becomes a “ch” in Swiss German
And that’s what you’ve been waiting for, right? The famous “ch” that makes Swiss German so unique worldwide.
|Schweizerdeutsch «ch»||Hochdeutsch «k»||English|
The German “st” becomes the “scht” in Swiss German
|Schweizerdeutsch «scht»||Hochdeutsch «st»||English|
Small differences in everyday life
If you want to order a “Radler” (beer mixed with limonade) in Switzerland, you order a “Panche”. In Switzerland to grill is “grillieren”, in Germany you call it “grillen”. “Parkieren” is another typical Swiss High German word, that in Germany is called “parken” (to park). You got it?
Swiss German has not established itself in Germany
While the Swiss are familiar with German terms, none of the Swiss German expressions have made it into the Germanic vocabulary. As open to integration as the language of the French once was and the American language today is shown in Germany, so much is the opposition to Swiss German.
Swiss German can be learned
With the language rules mentioned you have already taken a big step forward. If you want to learn even more Swiss German, sign up for our online course and become a professional!