Switzerland is one of the most stunning countries in Europe and it sits on the crossroads of the French, German, and Italian-speaking regions of Europe. It is a mountainous country and one with very different regions where different regions have their own traditions and vibe. Officially, there are four official languages in Switzerland - German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Switzerland is at the junction of Germanic and Romance (Latin-based languages like Italian and French) Europe. The linguistic divide in Switzerland is more than just language, it is also a cultural divide. Switzerland is a confederation made up of 26 cantons - these are like states and have a huge amount of autonomy.
The German Part of Switzerland
The German part of Switzerland is by far the largest - although the dialect of German spoken natively in Switzerland is very different from that spoken in Germany. They speak varieties of "Swiss German" that are substantially different from the standard High German dialect.
German (or Swiss German) is spoken by nearly two-thirds of the population (around 62.8%). German-speaking cities include the capital, Bern, the largest city of Zurich, as well as Basel.
- German (Swiss German): Spoken By 62.8% of The Population
- Notable German Speaking Cities: Bern, Zurich, Basel
- Zurich: The Largest City is German Speaking
- Bern: The Capital City is German Speaking
The German part includes most of the north, central and eastern parts of the country - the greater part of the country. Switzerland borders Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and the microstate of Liechtenstein. Three of them - Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein speak German
German is the sole official language of 17 of Switzerland's 26 cantons as well as co-official in three more with French. In the trilingual canton of Graubünden (or Grisons), it is also the dominant language.
The German part of Switzerland includes most of the most famous attractions and the Swiss-German culture is best known to the outside world.
As one travels in Switzerland, one will find there are sometimes unofficial "borders" between the linguistic parts and the change is stark.
The French Part of Switzerland
The French part is the second-largest and accounts for almost a quarter of the population (around 22.9%) and is mostly in the western part of the country close to France. French-speaking cities include Geneva and Lausanne.
- French: Spoken By 22.9% of The Population
- Notable French Speaking Cities: Geneva and Lausanne
- Romands: The Name For The French Speakers of Switzerland
- Geneva: An Internationally Important City - It is French Speaking
The name for the French part is Romandy which has around a quarter of the Swiss population. The population is particularly concentrated around the Arc Lémanique region along Lake Geneva, which connects Geneva, Vaud, and the Lower Valais.
French is the only official language of four of the cantons - Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Jura. Also has co-official status in three other cantons - Fribourg/Freiburg, Valais/Wallis, and Berne/Bern.
The Italian Speaking Part of Switzerland
The Italian part is mostly a few valleys in the southern part of the country close to Italy. Italian speakers account for around 8.2% of the population.
The main Italian-speaking part of Switzerland is in the canton of Ticino bordering Italy. It is the southernmost canton of Switzerland and is geographically almost entirely south of the Alps.
- Italian: Spoken By 8.2% of The Population
- Cantons Spoken: Ticino (Predominately), Southern part of Graubünden, And Part Of Grisons
- Distinct: The Italian Part is Known To Be Quite Distinct From The Rest of the Country
The canton has a population of around 350,000 and its largest city is Lugano with other notable towns being Bellinzona and Locarno. The canton is a major tourist destination for Switzerland and is famous for its warm climate, and its meridional culture and gastronomy - setting it apart from the rest of the country.
The Romansh Speaking Park of Switzerland
The fourth and by far the smallest part is that of the Romansh. They only account for around 0.5% of the population and are in the lowly populated canton of Grisons. Grisons is a trilingual canton in the southeastern part of the country where German, Italian, and Romansh is spoken. German is dominant in the canton with around 74% of the population speaking German.
The Romansh speakers make up around 14% of the canton of Grisons and have around 40,000 speakers.
- Romansh: Spoken By 0.5% of The Population
- Where: In The Southeastern Caton of Grisons (Around 14% of the Local Population)
- Number of Speakers: Around 40,000 Speakers
Romansh is a language that has descended from Latin from the days of the Roman Empire.
If one is going to Switzerland, then there are a number of phrases one should always know in any language. But don't stress too much. Most people in Switzerland speak English very well.