Learn Swiss in 5 minutes

Swiss (Schwiizertüütsch/Schwiizerdütsch/Schweizerdeutsch) is a quite different language to formal German (Hochdeutsch).  It still has not been formalized, although this was attempted once and failed dismally. Not much is printed in Swiss, nearly all business and education is done in formal German (albeit that the German spoken in Switzerland differs from that spoken in Germany to the same extent that English spoken in the UK and the USA differ). 

Yet everyone speaks Swiss here, and mostly as a mothertongue. Mind you, this is done in various dialects and accents and with variations in its laconic, melodic phrasing. Some argue that the lack of formalisation has strengthened the use of the language and prevented it from being diluted with formal German. What is indisputable is that the lack of formalisation has helped preserve the dialectical richness over a very small country.

Apart from the deviation in the vocabulary and the spelling, the grammar has only 3 basic tenses and  only 2 cases (General and Dativ). Expressing subtleties is a problem (similar to what I have found in Afrikaans, which also the lacks the grammatical richness of Hochdeutsch or English).  

The pronounciation is such that k's, kk's, r's and the ch-diphtoungh are deep, gutteral frickatives (fonetic [X]), which will even put the Afrikaans g-sound (as in 'Ag, genade!') to shame. Just thinking about the spoken swiss language can give you a dry throat.


An Instant Swiss guide for German speakers:

  1. Smoke a big cigar to get the back of yourh throat all roughed up
  2. Put your head in a bucket of water
  3. Speak German while putting the words to an arbitary song, remembering to purposely make the occasional grammatical mistake

Voila. You now speak Swiss / Sii cha Schiizertüütsch.


In the end, I just spoke normal German and that worked just fine - they understood me and I understood them.