Switzerland’s Governmental History
As diversified as Switzerland is, is there an official language of Switzerland? What language do they speak in Switzerland? Historically, Switzerland was not governed by a centralized government. To help keep the peace among its 26 cantonal and communal laws, the country’s local and municipal regions allowed each district to retain some self-control over their specific governance.
This governmental freedom also included the edict that each district could keep its own culture and language. This begs the question of what language is spoken in Switzerland? Many people thought that Switzerland had its own official language but instead, this beautiful country is a melting pot of cultures and languages.
The Swiss Language
Throughout Switzerland and in some areas in each city, there are different official languages, local dialects, and even foreign languages spoken by citizens coexisting for years, thus there is no national official language of Switzerland. There are historical and geographic reasons why Switzerland is a multi-cultural country.
There is more than one language spoken in Switzerland. The Swiss language consists of four major languages spoken in Switzerland. In this case, it can be asked how many official languages does Switzerland have?
Because of Switzerland’s history of operating as a neutral country, there is no national language of Switzerland. Switzerland is historically and geographically bordered by Germany, Italy, France, and Austria. Therefore, it is no wonder that Switzerland's four official languages, traditionally spoken in different regions of the country, are German, French, Italian, and Romansh or Rumantsch.
Official Language of Switzerland
Romansh is mainly spoken in the southwest. If there is an official language of Switzerland, it would be Romansh since its inception in 1938. However, today, Switzerland’s official language Romansh is slightly infused with German and Italian.
Switzerland is a country that takes pride in its population of multilingual languages and its diversity. This is outlined in the following percentages of each language being spoken. The percentage of Switzerland’s four official languages include German (62%), French (23%), Italian (8%), and Romansh (0.5%).
English in Switzerland
If you speak English only, don’t worry because the Swiss are taught to be multilingual from an early age, which means that most Swiss can speak English. Even though English does not have an official speaking status, it is widely spoken as a foreign language in Switzerland.
English is popularized because of the many international businesses becoming established throughout the country. English is a standard business language. However, if you are traveling within the Switzerland districts, its people are bilingual and if they do not speak fluent English, they will get someone to help you. The only district citizens who stick strictly to their native mother tongue language can be found in small-town markets or pubs.
Getting the Help You Need
When you are traveling through Switzerland with its historic and beautiful landscapes you may require document translation services or language translation. When this occurs, you can use the translation services of The Spanish Group. Their travel experts will help you identify where you might need translation service assistance. Their translators are familiar with the linguistic and lexical changes spoken in Switzerland.
The question regarding what language is spoken in Switzerland is not an easy question to respond to. In Switzerland language is an interesting conversation and this is where a dialect and historical explanation comes in. Let’s look at each of Switzerland’s language districts:
German-Swiss (die Schweiz)
Swiss German (Schwitzerdütsch) is not pure German spoken in the native country, but it does pop up occasionally in the newspaper. It is a dialect that is peppered with French. Swiss Germans are proud of their linguistic diversity. This population inhabits the eastern, central, and northern parts of Switzerland. The Spanish Group states that the Swiss-German pronunciations are not standard German, but they will still understand you. Swiss German is so popularly spoken that the favorite tourist districts noted for speaking this dialect include Zurich, Luzern, Schaffhausen, and others.
French spoken in Switzerland is a similar dialect to standard French, but there are regional variations in the spoken French language. This language is spoken in the western part of Switzerland. It is known locally that there is an invisible boundary line dividing some French regions where dialects will differ. For example, some street signs can be written in two different French dialects. The popular tourist districts where Swiss French is spoken include Geneva, Vaud, Neuchatel, and Jura
Italian spoken in Switzerland is spoken in the southern part of the country. One of the most noticeable characteristics of Swiss Italian is the influence of French and German. Over half of Swiss Italians live in other districts where German and French are spoken. Switzerland is home to the third-largest Italian community of Italians outside of Italy. Even though the Italian dialect is spoken throughout the country of Switzerland, Italian is not widely spoken. Instead, Italian is sprinkled into the daily language of the Swiss communities. The popular district for Swiss Italian is Ticino.
Romansh history is a rich part of Switzerland. It is a language spoken mostly in the Graubünden district, which is in the southeast part of Switzerland. The Romansh language is like Latin, it is not spoken, but its history is written in government papers, higher institutions of learning, and is spoken by the elder populations of Switzerland.
Switzerland's official language Romansh is a variation of five other dialects. The Romansh history dates back to 500 BC and it became more developed after the Romans conquered the Swiss territory years later. Many descendants who spoke Romansh have passed on their dialect knowledge to current day family members. It is also noted that Romansh dialects will vary, therefore many villagers will not understand each other. Romansh is influenced by the German language.
The languages spoken above help to answer the question of what language does Switzerland speak. Besides the official or national language of Switzerland, a large number of expats live and work in Switzerland today. They all bring their language intermingling it within the Switzerland landscape. Other languages that you can hear occasionally on the streets in Switzerland include the language of immigrants from Albania, Portugal, Turkey, those speaking Serbo-Croatian, Greek, Chinese, Russian, Polish, and many more.