Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansch. When you look at a map of Switzerland, that’s hardly surprising, but doesn’t it cause problems with translation and interpreting? It seems that many Swiss people get around the problem by communicating amongst themselves in English!
Swiss people are used to speaking more than one language – almost two-thirds (64%) of Swiss people use more than one language at least once a week. 38% use two languages, 19% three and 7% four or more languages. Although Romansch is an official language it is spoken only by a small minority in the canton of Graubünden, and English is the fourth most-used language, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.
20% of German-speakers and 12% of Italian-speakers use French regularly; 19% of French-speakers regularly use German and 11% use Italian. One of Switzerland’s most famous sons, Roger Federer, is an example of how Swiss people work across language barriers – he is fluent in Swiss German, Standard German, French and English.
English is widely and regularly spoken in Switzerland – by 43% of German-speakers, 38% of French-speakers and 30% of Italian-speakers. Given that younger people were more likely to be multilingual, and to speak English, the trend for multilingualism looks likely to grow.
As if the Swiss did not have enough languages already, there are also a few other languages spoken there, including Spanish (6%), Portuguese (5%) and Balkan languages. All in all, you can have a multilingual trip if you visit Switzerland! It would definitely be worth trying your German in the German-speaking cantons, French in the French-speaking ones and Italian in the regions neighbouring Italy. Ask your la Academia tutor before you go for hints on dialect and accent in Switzerland, and give your languages a try!