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How multilingualism works in Switzerland

We know that in Switzerland they speak different languages. Four languages ​​are officially fixed: German (with informal communication, the Swiss version of the German language is used; 63.7%), French (also Swiss Swiss; 20.4%), Italian (6.5%) and Romansh (0.5%) . But how does this multilingualism work in practice? What language is the constitution written in? In what language does the president make New Year’s greetings? Do all residents know 4 languages ​​or they do not understand each other, living in one country?


Four languages ​​are spoken in Switzerland

Let’s start with the fact that every Swiss does not know all 4 languages. Usually they know 1-2. All 4 languages ​​are enshrined in the Swiss Federal Constitution (which exists in several translations). Each canton itself establishes for itself the official language in which the administrative apparatus will work, in which they will speak in court, issue laws, teach at universities, etc. The language chosen as an official depends on which is the most common language in a given canton. Some cantons even choose several official languages. So the cantons of Bern and Wallis are geographically divided into German-speaking and French-speaking parts. The cantons of Ticino and Jura are bilingual: French, Italian. And canton Graubuden is the only one who recognized the official Romansh language (along with German and Italian).

In 17 of the 26 cantons, German is recognized as the only official language. In Bern, Fribur, Wallis and Graubunden, it is recognized as one of the official languages, and (almost) is not used only in Vaud, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Ticino and Jura.


Some Swiss speak French

Most German-speaking Swiss speak (at least at the simplest level) French, and French-speaking Swiss tend to know standardized German. Italian and Romansh are not particularly common, so the speakers of these languages ​​must know German or French. Most Swiss also speak English.

Such a free language policy is explained by the need to preserve Switzerland as an indivisible state. It’s difficult to feel national unity in a country where your fellow citizens speak another language with you. If, for example, the German language is spoken by the French-speaking Swiss, then they will want to secede from the Confederation in order to preserve their identity.


Swiss schools and German language

Language learning in Swiss schools is a subject of constant discussion. Children usually study in the language of their canton; if a canton is bilingual, they can choose their own school. In addition, they are learning another national language and English. Thus, the average Swiss child teaches 3 languages.

That is, language differences are a very important part of the joint rhythm of living in Switzerland and there may indeed be a situation when one Swiss does not understand the other. But often such problems do not arise within the same canton and within the borders of the neighboring cantons. Who needs to, he will learn. But German remains the most popular among those who are interested in Switzerland.

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