Languages in Switzerland

Are you interested in learning the language of Switzerland? You may be surprised to know that Switzerland has more than one official language. Below we explain the main languages spoken in Switzerland, and the part of Switzerland in which each langua

Switzerland is locked in the heart of Europe and surrounded by major European countries on all sides. Each country exerts cultural influence on the areas of Switzerland that are close to its borders and nowhere is this more visible than with language in Switzerland. There are four main languages spoken in Switzerland. These languages are German, French, Italian and Romanish.

German Language in Switzerland

German is the most widely spoken language in Switzerland with approximately 60% of the population in Switzerland speaking German as a first language. The German language dominates most of the Swiss cantons in both the centre and some of the east of Switzerland. The German spoken in Switzerland is quite different from the official German language spoken in Germany.  The variety of the German language spoken in Switzerland varies inside Switzerland. For example, Bern and Zurich, which are both major cities in Switzerland, each have their own distinct dialects of the German language.  Unlike other European countries where prestige is associated with the variety of the language that is spoken by the countries elite, in Switzerland people take great pride in their own dialects and there is no hierarchical assignation of different varieties of the German language in Switzerland.

French Language in Switzerland

The French language is the second most widely spoken language in Switzerland. Approximately 20% of people in Switzerland speak French as their first language. The French language dominates in the West of Switzerland where is has a border with France. Unlike the German language in Switzerland, the French spoken does not differ that greatly from the standard variety of the French language spoken in Paris. It is quite interesting that despite the fact that German is spoken as a first language by more than half of the population in Switzerland, Swiss speakers of the French language in general have very little knowledge of the German language.

Italian Language in Switzerland

The Italian language is spoken in the South of Switzerland. Approximately 6% of the population of Switzerland speak Italian as their first language. Although the basic language is the same as that spoken across Italy, the dialect of Italian language spoken in Switzerland resembles that spoken in the north of Italy. People in Switzerland who speak Italian as a first language usually speak the German language as well because of the frequent contact they have with German language speakers.

Romanish Language in Switzerland

Romanish is the least spoken language in Switzerland and is only spoken by about 1% of the Swiss population. This language is spoken in pockets of Eastern Switzerland.

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Nick says:

May I suggest using Esperanto in Switzerland.