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Which Language Should You Learn When Moving to Switzerland


Language - Gerd Altmann  / pixelio.de

One of the issues most expats are dealing with is language. Unless you move inside your own language region (e.g. from England to the US) you will be facing a new language in your day to day to life. Buying groceries or ordering a meal suddenly become challenging new aspects of your life.

Is English sufficient? 

Now, one could argue that in this age of globalization a decent knowledge of English will be sufficient to master all these situations. This is probably true for most larger cities around the world that are the home to many internationals. However, as soon as you move a bit farther into the suburbs or into the small towns you'll notice that English becomes less useful. 

The situation in Switzerland is similar. In the big cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Basle you don't necessarily need to know the local language. English works fine for work and living and even the government offices offer most services in English as well. The situation is quite different in the smaller towns and rural areas of Switzerland. Most daily activities are conducted in the local language only. 

Why learning the local languages is an advantage

Thus, one could conclude that learning the local language is only necessary if you are moving to a remote place. Yet, I believe that learning the local language is an advantage for any expat. It opens doors to meet local people and to experience the country in a authentic way. Obviously it will make your day to day life much simpler also. Not to mention that you immediately make a good impression on any local if you at least try yourself at using the local language.

Which language to learn when moving to Switzerland

So, which language should you learn when moving to Switzerland? Since there are four official languages in Switzerland, the answer to this question depends largely on where in Switzerland you plan on settling. In the western part French is the main language, in the north and east (Swiss) German is dominant and in the south Italian is mainly spoken. In some remote mountain valleys locals speak Rumantsch but they are almost always bilingual (in Swiss German).

My recommendation is that you make an effort to learn basic conversational German or French before you move to Switzerland, especially if you plan on staying here for a while.




© 2012 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Comments

  1. Nice recommendations! I speak only French and English for the moment and I'm looking forward to being able to speak more in German. It would be more comfortable! :)

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