Welcome back to my Swiss themed A - Z blogging challenge.
Q may be a hard letter for most of my fellow alphabet bloggers. As for me, I'm lucky to live in a diverse, quadrilingual country.
In the larger part of Switzerland - about 63% - folks speak Swiss German. The Western part is the French speaking part, also called Romandie, about 23% of Swiss people speak French. Remember, Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux?
What about the Italian speaking? They are an even smaller minority (8%). They know it and have accepted it. In addition to their Italian mother-tongue, they have learnt to fluently speak German or French or both and never complain. Hey, they got all the pasta and vino to enjoy the good life!
There's some 5.5% left, in case you were counting. They are split between Rhaeto-Romanic or "Rumantsch" (0.5%), which is our fourth, very neglected national language, and 5% "other languages" like ex-yugoslav languages, spanish and portuguese.
Or English ;-)
The good news is tourists will get by just fine. Airport staff, hotel and restaurant employees, they'll all be happy to help you.
I feel, however, that marketing and sales people, even the media in Switzerland are overusing English. And you know I do I love English, but if they are using it wrongly, I'm like WTF?
Example: people here go to public viewings all the time, especially in summer. It has nothing to do with someone's wake. It's simply a giant screen put up in a public space broadcasting the soccer game.
Back to Swiss German. It is not the high German that is spoken in Germany. It's Swiss German, and any German person who first starts working in Switzerland will not understand a word of it! To make matters worse, our dialects differ greatly, depending on whether we live in Basel, Bern, Zurich or St. Gallen.
And don't get me started on the mountainous states like Grisons or Valais.
So Swiss German is what our kids around here learn first. Since they grow up watching Swiss and German TV they understand high German from early on. Come Kindergarten and elementary school, the language taught in is high German.
It's hard for us. We feel inferior, if not retarded, every time we have to express ourselves in cultivated high German. Ask any Swiss person. We'd rather speak English (or French, and that means something ;-)
Also, us Swiss have a bit of a rivalry going on with the Germans.
They keep kicking our butts in soccer. We don't like it. And we resent their (overly) confident and demanding attitude. Here's an example. Early in the morning at the bakery:
Swiss person: "Grüezi, ich het gern es Brötli, bitte" (You learned about Grüezi, didn't you, it's Hello. The rest is just your polite Swiss German way to ask for a bread roll, please.)
German person: "Ich krieg 'n Brötchen." (I get a bread roll)
See the difference?
By they way, "Brötli" is a perfect example of Swiss German. We like to minimize the words for our stuff. A Brötli is a little Brot, the bread roll is the smaller version of a bread. Make sense? We use it for a lot of things. Except a mug is really, really large, we won't call it Tasse, but Tassli. A bag like a handbag would be a Tasche in German. Us Swiss prefer our Täschli, a small bag ;-) Not to confuse with the plastic bags that have been banned from supermarkets. They are called Säckli!
I can not do a post about Swiss German without sharing the word we may be most famous for:
A Chuchichäschtli is a kitchen cabinet. The only reason it's somewhat funny is because it contains so many ch sounds.
We also use a lot of French words in Swiss German that our German German colleagues have other expressions for:
- Wallet, Portemonnaie, Geldbeutel
- Truck driver, Lastautochauffeur, Lastkraftwagenfahrer
- Hairdresser, Coiffeur, Frisör
- Inspector, Conducteur, Schaffner
- Ticket, Billet, Fahrschein
- Sidewalk, Trottoir, Gehsteig
- Ice Cream, Glacé, Eis
- Chicken, Poulet, Hähnchen
Here are a couple of fun videos. Emily, a Canadian, experienced that the classroom high German is not taking her anywhere in her everyday life in Switzerland:
This young German guy asked around among the Swiss what they thought about the Germans, and interestingly, my fellow Swiss repeated exactly what I told you above (English subtitles for your convenience):
Whoa, but THEN! The other way round. They asked Germans how they feel about the Swiss, an, oh man, they had nothing but nice things to say. Except the guy who actually lives and works in Switzerland. He gets some negative vibes, and I can't blame him:
Alright, wrapping it up! Here's a hilarious comparison of German vs other languages. Don't skip it:
The German language likes to connect a couple of words to one, loooong word. The day before yesterday we talked about drugs, right? Well, people who sell and / or use drugs, violate the law that requires a prescription for anaesthetics.
German word for this law: Betäubungsmittelverschreibungsverordnung.
As Emily above mentioned: Just because you have learned German at language school does not mean you'll get by in Switzerland or Austria, our neighbor country to the East, for that matter. Even though they officially speak high German, they pronounce it differently, and they have a lot of own words and expressions.
- Tomato, Tomate, Paradeiser
- January, Januar, Jänner
- Bag, Tüte, Sackerl
- Whipped Cream, Schlagsahne, Obers
- This year, dieses Jahr, heuer
- Abricots, Aprikosen, Marillen
- Chimney, Schornstein, Rauchfang
- Call in sick, sich krankmelden, in den Krankenstand gehen
Speaking of crossing borders. Have you ever heard the term "Röstigraben"?
Literally it means hash brown ditch, and I can't believe there's a contribution on Wikipedia!
There's a lot of stereotypes that one group of people says about the other one.
The Swiss Germans say that the Swiss French are on the lazy side, don't feel like taking orders or keeping deadlines, are chaotic and unreliable. Plus their language is really impossible.
The Swiss French say about the Swiss Germans that they are overly punctual and tend to be anal and intolerant. Plus their language is really impossible.
There's a bit of truth in both.
This was your free class in Swiss languages. You may go and enjoy your recess now.
Did you enjoy learning about our quadrilingual country? Do you speak any of these languages? Let me know in the comments below and be back tomorrow for the letter R. I will be talking about REGA, our air rescue service.