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skiing accommodation zermatt
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While French speaking people in Switzerland do use "standard French" instead of "patois" [rural French dialects] the contrary is true for German, Italian and Rumantsch in Switzerland. Standard German is used almost only in written form (the Swiss German term for standard German is "written German") or if the occasion is very formal (speeches, news on radio and television) or if a part of the audience is not able to understand Swiss German dialect (like French or Italian speaking or foreign team members). People talking to an audience they do not know personally often begin with the question "Does everybody understand Swiss German or do I have to speak standard German?" Radio and TV talk shows, soaps, sports news etc. are mostly presented in Swiss German (unless imported from Germany). The use of dialect is - unlike to Germany, France or the U.K. not a matter of class or education - even professors do discuss their scientific theories in dialect.

There are two reasons for this special relation of German and Italian speaking Swiss people to their local dialects:

Historical / political: Fascist dictators Hitler (in Germany) and Mussolini (in Italy) planned to establish nations that would include all territories where their national languages are spoken - Hitler did annex Austria in 1938 and parts of Czechoslovakia in 1939. So speaking a German or Italian dialect most Germans or Italians do not understand without training was a political act in the 1930's and it stopped a tendency to eliminate the use of dialects. French speaking Swiss had no reason to be alarmed in this respect.

Dialect is easy to use and yet more precise: grammar is reduced to what is really useful, but foreign words are rather adapted instead of being translated (as Germans prefer to do) - this leads to "one word - one meaning" and that can sometimes really be helpful to avoid misunderstandings! If I don't understand a new foreign word, I know that there is a new thing to get familiar with and I will ask - with translations I might hear a familiar word and think I understand it, while I do in fact not even realize that I don't understand.

Multilinguism Today

Classical multilingualism meant that Swiss children have to learn one of the other major languages of the country plus English at school after they had acquired a basic working knowledge of their own mother tongue. This used to be a positive challenge for most students.

Today, immigrants speak a variety of languages (among others Spanish, Turkish, Serbian, Croatian, Portugese). Switzerland's birth rate is very low among the "native" population and rather high among the immigrants. The result is that in Switzerland's major cities about half of the schoolchildren come from families that do not speak the official language of the region at home. Despite of intense special efforts by school authorities and teachers these children are evidently handicapped when confronted with more complex texts at school. Recently Swiss politicians have proposed that children should be obliged to go to nursery-schools from the age of 3 to ensure that all children do learn the official language of the region.

Switzerland and Europe

Federalism and Multilinguism in Switzerland have been described by many politicians and scholars as a model for the cooperation of different nations in Europe. While some people tend to idealize the Swiss model others see that there are severe limitations.

Probably both are right. It might be useful to have a closer look at the rules and institutions that have helped Switzerland to establish stable and cooperative relations between its regions. And it might be prudent to keep in mind that this inner balance is fragile and demands a lot of effort from both majority and minority. Last, but not least, Switzerland's model of federalism and direct democracy is effective, but it has a price: it is not efficient in a cheap way. Things are just a little more complicated and take a little longer if everybody is invited to participate in the political process. skiing accommodation zermatt