In June 2004, the legal framework of the Swiss labour market was modified. Since then there is free movement of persons. This has made it easier for foreign workers to enter the labour market. Germans in particular are taking advantage of this situation. Currently more than 300,000 Germans live in Switzerland and together with Italians they are the largest group of foreigners. Goal-oriented and successful integration is essential for learning the language of a country.
Switzerland has four official languages. Around 64% of the population regard High German as the main language. French is the first language for 19% of Swiss citizens, Italian for 8% and Romansh for 1% of Swiss citizens. Additionally, more than 20 regional dialects are used for communication. This is why there are clear language barriers between the various cantons which leads to communication problems within the population.
Regional distribution of languages
Where an official language is spoken depends on its geographical location. German-speaking population groups live in the northern, central and eastern regions of Switzerland. French-speakers are located in western Switzerland which is also known as French-speaking Switzerland. In the south of Switzerland, Italian is the official language and Rhaeto-Romansh is spoken in south-eastern Switzerland.
Swiss German on the upswing
Until a few years ago, Swiss German was used mainly as a colloquial language. Today, High German has lost importance as the lingua franca of German-speaking Switzerland. High German has practically been turned into a foreign language. Young people in particular question the use of High German and consequently question the point of learning High German.
Government, banks, schools and the media communicate in an official language. German-speaking Swiss, however, increasingly prefer to communicate in Schwyzerdütsch (Swiss German) and speaking dialect in professional life is becoming more and more popular. Understanding Swiss German has become a prerequisite for communication in all relevant areas of life. A lack of appropriate language skills, particularly in one’s professional life may lead to all kinds of misunderstandings.
Studies support the expectations
An empirical study conducted by the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration in 2015 examines this particular problem. The study included surveys on the situation of German employees in Switzerland. According to this study, 42% of all respondents allegedly stated that they were subject to a continuous justification of their origin. 30% of the people interviewed believe they have poorer job and career opportunities. 10% of the respondents always hold back from speaking to avoid being recognized as Germans. 28% of those surveyed stated that they sometimes used this approach. A comprehensive understanding of Swiss German and its safe use should therefore be understood as an absolute indicator of individual well-being. The practice-oriented use of Swiss German thus prevents the fictitious and actual exclusion of foreign residents.
The importance of speaking Swiss German in everyday life
Private and interpersonal relationships also benefit from understanding and using Swiss German. In some cases, there are considerable differences between High German and Swiss German when it comes to content. This is why the local dialect has its own vocabulary. Through learning Swiss German, misunderstandings in communication can be minimized and it is also easier to make new connections and friendships.
Potential employees should also pay attention to certain details when looking for a job and applying. For example, the sharp “ß” does not exist in Switzerland. Using this letter suggests a lack of understanding of the Swiss language. By using the “ß” you will be immediately identified as a foreigner.
Learning made easy
The beauty, however, is that no one has it easier than a German to learn Swiss German. These languages are close to each other and we here at the school specialise in building bridges between the two languages.