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The Swiss Language Phenomenon

I am planning on spending this weekend at Lake Neuchatel in the French part of Switzerland. To be more precise, it is the French speaking part since it obviously isn't French territory. Therefore, I thought of telling you about what I call the Swiss language phenomenon.

Dictionaries - Andrea Damm  / pixelio.de
Switzerland is relatively tiny, especially compared to the US or Great Britain. Even Italy is actually big in comparison to the Swiss nation. In fact, Switzerland is about 40 times smaller than California which means that Switzerland could fit 40 times into California. I actually learned this from an FAQ about Switzerland on the website Facts about Switzerland. I always knew Switzerland was tiny but wasn't sure how tiny in comparison to the US. Sorry, Brits and Aussies out there, I haven't found a comparison to your countries!

Anyway, tiny Switzerland does not only have 26 semi-independent cantons but also four official languages. We Swiss either speak French, Italian, Romansh or Swiss German. Take note: there is no such language as "Swiss".
Nobody in Switzerland speaks it, it simply doesn't exist.

You might think that most Swiss people speak German but the average Swiss person will tell you that Swiss German is actually quite different from German. For example, a lot of German visitors to Switzerland are having a hard time understanding Swiss German. However, the Swiss learn High German or Standard German in school from first grade of primary school and onwards and therefore have no trouble understanding Germans unless they speak Plattdeutsch or Bavarian.

I think it is pretty neat to have so many languages in one country and all the official documents always written in all of them. Even in supermarkets you get your items labeled in several official languages. And yet,  no part of Switzerland wants to become independent or leave the Swiss federation for some other country. At least I wouldn't know of such a thing.

In short, Switzerland is a great destination to learn and practice your foreign languages: German, French and Italian a few hours drive from each other!

Good day to you all, or should I say: Guete Tag! Bonjour! Buongiorno! Bun di!



© 2011 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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