Multilingualism is popular in Switzerland – there are several official languages: German, French, Italian into English translation. Depending on the region, only one language is official. Because the so-called linguistic territorial principle applies. Read interesting facts about the four languages in Switzerland!
If you ask the Swiss “What language is the official language of Switzerland?”, you will get different answers depending on the region. Because Switzerland is quadrilingual . The official languages are:
- Italian and
Who speaks which language in Switzerland? (distribution according to population shares)
According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office , almost two thirds of the Swiss (62.3 percent) spoke German or Swiss German in 2020 . This makes the German language or its Swiss German variant the most widely spoken language in Switzerland . The number of German-speaking Swiss is therefore tending to decrease. In 1970, 66.1 percent of Swiss people still spoke German.
French follows on the list of the most spoken languages in Switzerland . It was spoken by 22.8 percent of Swiss in 2020. Compared to the French-speaking Swiss in 1970, this is an impressive increase of 5.4 percent.
In 2020, 8 percent of Swiss people still spoke Italian. That is exactly 3 percent less than in 1970.
And Romansh has also experienced a decline over the past five decades: while it was still spoken by 0.8 percent of the Swiss in 1970, in 2020 only 0.5 percent spoke it.
At the same time, the Federal Statistical Office estimates other languages (non-national languages), above all English and Portuguese , to have grown from 3.7 percent (1970) to 23.1 percent (2020).
The top 10 main languages in Switzerland, as named by the Federal Statistical Office for 2020, are as follows:
- German: 62.3 percent
- French: 22.8 percent
- Italian: 8 percent
- English: 5.8 percent
- Portuguese: 3.5 percent
- Albanian: 3.2 percent
- Spanish: 2.4 percent
- Serbian, Croatian: 2.3 percent
- Romansh: 0.5 percent
- other languages: 8.2 percent
Are you looking for translators and court interpreter services for English, Swiss German, Swiss French, Swiss Italian or Romansh? As a professional translation agency, our language experts also have a perfect command of the Swiss language variants.
Which language is spoken where in Switzerland? (distribution by region)
In what is known as German-speaking Switzerland (orange area on the map above), i.e. in the north, east and center of Switzerland, German is the official language. Which is Swiss German, which its speakers understand as a Swiss dialect or Swiss vernacular of Standard German and refer to it as Schwyzerdütsch (also Schwiizerdütsch ) or just Dütsch. Various Alemannic dialects that are no longer common in Germany and Austria come together in Swiss German. These are combined with many French expressions.
Anyone traveling in German-speaking Switzerland will quickly notice that different dialects of Schwyzerdütsch are spoken there. However, you can always get by with Standard German, because the Schwyzerdütschen use it for their formal correspondence, in books and in the media.
Romandy or French Switzerland
In western Switzerland (green area on the map above), i.e. in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura, Swiss French is spoken that hardly differs from the French spoken in France. Some say that when speaking French, the Swiss lengthen the vowel sounds, making the language sound “slower” overall.
Swiss Italian (purple area on the map above) is spoken in the southeast of Switzerland, i.e. in the canton of Ticino and in the southern part of the canton of Graubünden (in Italian: canton Grigioni). Compared to the Italian Italians in Italy, the Italian of the Swiss has many expressions from German and French.
One of the three Rhaeto-Romanic languages, Graubünden Romansh, Dolomite Ladin and Friulian is spoken in several areas of Switzerland (pink colored areas on the map above). It is also called Rumantsch or Alpenromansch. The fact that this language still exists today is a small linguistic miracle: According to Wikipedia, the Romansh dialects are residual dialects of Latin from the Roman province of Raetia, which can neither be assigned to the Romance languages nor classified as their dialects.
Multilingualism is popular in Switzerland
Multilingualism has several dimensions in Switzerland:
Demographic multilingualism : The Swiss traditionally see themselves as multilingual. In addition to their main regional language, many Swiss learn other languages, especially English.
Territorial multilingualism : Switzerland draws its least linguistic identity from several sources. The existence of four main languages and their distribution across four language areas, in which generally only one is considered the official language (official language), stands for the linguistic territorial principle that prevails in Switzerland.
Institutional multilingualism : Switzerland recognizes the four main languages as official languages and communicates officially with their speakers using the respective language. Incidentally, that was not always the case: up until 1798, the old Confederation was monolingual in German.
If you want to communicate with or in Switzerland, you not only need knowledge of the four official Swiss languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh, but also a lot of language knowledge, because the Swiss vary the source languages of their languages in many different ways.
Thanks to their language skills and knowledge, our professional translators and interpreters for LST are able to translation of documents and regionalize your templates for Switzerland.
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