Official Languages in Switzerland

All products (such as the ready-made-sauce in the picture) are labelled in the three main languages: German, French and Italian. Official publications are issued in three or four languages. Switzerland doesn’t have one common language that all have to speak.

The country has four official languages that are spoken in specific geographical areas. Swiss German is spoken by almost 2/3 of the Swiss. In 17 of the 26 Cantons Swiss German is the main language. In three cantons (Berne, Fribourg and the Wallis) both languages, Swiss German and French, are spoken, depending on the area.

Swiss German is spoken with different dialects with really quite some variations. The Swiss German speaking kids have to study high German and learn to express themselves in this language. However talking to a German they are often reluctant to talk in proper high German. Maybe because the Germans speak a very polished German while the Swiss tend to have a very broad Swiss German accent which immediately gives them away as Swiss German speakers.

23% of the Swiss, called “les Romands” speak French as their mother tongue. French is spoken in the Western part of Switzerland (bordering France). The French they speak also has some smaller variations. The French of the Canton of Neuchâtel is the most beautiful French spoken in our country.

About 6% speak Italian. This area is in the South of the country, bordering Italy. Their Italian is also particular to this area.

A very small pocket (only 0.6%) speaks Rätoromanisch living in the South-East (or the Canton Graubünden). They are usually really bilingual, speaking Rätoromanisch and Swiss German as their mother tongues.

In all schools the kids study their own language plus one other official language. However many of the kids hardly get a good handle on the 2nd language. Many speak some basic French or German. English is often more attractive, which is their 3rd language.