What I’ve Learned So Far on the Language of Switzerland

If you are somebody that doesn’t know anything about Switzerland or it’s history, I can teach you a thing or two as I am slowly becoming obsessed with Swiss culture.

As I point out on my home page, I’m hoping to travel to Switzerland someday either as a study abroad opportunity or a simple travel destination. One of the many intriguing aspects of Switzerland’s culture is its language. Switzerland does not have its own unique language, it is actually based on the German language called Swiss German.

There are plenty of differences between German and Swiss German, including the grammar and pronunciation. There are terms called relative clauses and relativizers (which is another word for conjunction) in the Swiss German language. The rule is that in Swiss German, the relative clauses are introduced by the relativizers and never the relative pronouns unlike the Standard German language. Another rule that distinguishes Swiss German from German is that stress is more often found in the first syllables of words.

Some basic examples of words said differently between Swiss German and Standard German:

1. Thank you:

Standard German: Danke

Swiss German: Merci

2. Hello:

Standard German: Guten Tag

Swiss German: Grüezi

3. Thanks a lot

Standard German: Vielen Dank

Swiss German: Merci vilmal

It hasn’t been proven true yet, but many believe the Swiss originally created “Merci” as a way for people to recognize that they were not German. It’s kind of funny. This would later confuse people to think they were speaking French, so the only way to distinguish between the three was to add “vilmal” to the end of “Thanks a lot.”

There are other dialects of German that I have yet to learn about like Zurich German. For now though, I’m going to focus on Standard German. You have to start somewhere!


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