Languages spoken in Switzerland

The languages spoken in Switzerland

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Four languages

No less than four languages are spoken in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic. The great number of languages spoken in this relatively small country can be explained by the history of Switzerland.

Swiss German

The majority of Swiss people speak German. German spoken in Switzerland is also called "Schwitzerdütsch", or "Swiss German". Don't expect to understand Swiss German if you understand standard German as it's spoken in Germany. It sounds totally different. Swiss German has its own words and a very different pronunciation. Some examples of typical Swiss words are grüezi (hello) and grüezi miteinand (hello all together). German people will not greet you like that. On top of this, there are different dialects per region.

Even though Swiss German is very different, you can speak standard German and most Swiss people will understand you perfectly fine, and will adapt so you understand them better.

Getting around with English

It is no major issue if you don't speak any of the local languages. Many Swiss people speak English as well, especially those working in tourism and on popular public transport routes. Based on our experience, places where it's most likely that the staff speaks limited or no English are regular shops not specifically geared to tourists. This includes supermarkets and gas stations. Staff members may ask a colleague who does speak English to assist. If you are looking for something very specific it helps to lookup that word in the local language.

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