Friday, May 29, 2009

The Languages of the Swiss

Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official languages: German (63.7% total population share) in the north, east and center of the country; French (20.4%; 21.0%) to the west; Italian (6.5%; 4.3%) in the south. Romansch, a Romance Language spoken locally by a small minority (0.5%; 0.6%) in the southeastern canton of Graubunden, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French and Italian.

The German spoken in Switzerland is collectively known as Swiss German. Similarly, there are some dialects of Franco Provencal (a French Dialect) in rural communities in the French speaking part, known as "Suisse Romande." Also the official languages (German, French and Italian) borrow some terms not understood outside of Switzerland, i.e. terms from other languages. Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so most Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual.
-Teacher Karl

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