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The different Languages of Switzerland

There are different languages in Switzerland because Switzerland has being composed of different cantons that form confederation Helvetica together. Switzerland has four official languages: German, Italian, French and Romansh.

German (Swiss German)

Over 60% of the population in Switzerland speaks in Swiss German. German is by far the most widely spoken language in Switzerland. On the other hand, a variation of Swiss German is spoken everywhere. In most big cities, they have their own dialect, which they will explicitly tell you if you ask them what language they speak. A German speaking Swiss will not say, “I speak Swiss German,” but will rather say that he speaks Baseldytsch (dialect of Basel), Bärndütsch (dialect of Bern) or Züridütsch (dialect of Zurich). People in each region – even in each town or village – speak their own distinct dialect, and nobody is willing to give it up in order to find a common written Swiss German language.

Swiss people cherish their own dialect and identify themselves with their own region more than they do with Switzerland itself. That’s why Swiss German has not managed to become a written language.

Find out more about Swiss German: https://fantasticswitzerland.org/swiss-german-what-is-the-language-the-swiss-speak/

French (Swiss French)

In the western part of the country, it’s French that prevails. Four cantons are French-speaking: Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud. Three cantons are bilingual: in Bern, Fribourg and Valais both French and German are spoken. In total, French-speakers account for 22% of the Swiss population.

Italian (Swiss Italian)

About 8% of the population in Switzerland is Italian.

Italian is spoken in Ticino and four southern valleys of Canton Graubünden. The Italian spoken in Switzerland is very similar to Standard Italian, with the only major differences coming via loanwords from German and French.

Rumantsch or Romansh (Romansh)

Despite Romansh being one of Switzerland’s four national languages, less than 0.5% percent of the Swiss can speak Romansh.

Rumantsch is spoken in the only trilingual canton, Graubünden. The other two languages spoken there are German and Italian. Rumantsch, like Italian and French, is a language with Latin roots.

Other languages

About 6% of Switzerland’s population speak other languages.

The many foreigners resident in Switzerland have brought with them their own languages, such as Franco-Provençal and Lombard.

But don’t worry if you are planning a trip across the cantons of Switzerland; don’t be scared, as English is widely spoken so you don’t necessarily need to become a polyglot.

Michael AW

Michael AW

Michael is the founder of Fantastic Switzerland Associaton. A non-profit organization to promote the location of Switzerland

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