Languages in Switzerland; The Invisible Boundary Between Population
by AnLuu on October 5, 2017 - 10:10pm
Switzerland has four official languages, being German, French, Italian and Romansh. 63% of the population speaks German, while 23% speaks French, 8% speaks Italian and 1% speaks Romansh. However, the three first languages appears on every official documents, while the last one is in danger of extinction. Furthermore, Switzerland has its own German, French and Italian dialects, as a result, language plays a huge part in Swiss’ identity.
Even if Switzerland has four official languages, depending on the region, one or two languages are favoured over the others. In region where the population speaks almost a unique language, such as the canton of Zürich, being German or the canton of Geneva, being French, it tends to have less problems.
However, in regions such as Bern (the capital), where both German and French are the official language, or in the canton of Graubünden (Grisons), where German, Italian and Romansh are official languages, it creates a bigger and visible division among the population.
In the canton of Bern, where French and German are the official languages, parts of the city/region is fully German or French, while other parts are mixed. As a result, in a same city, there is an invisible frontier between French speaking and German speaking communities. Furthermore, with different cultural heritages, thus having different political ideas, they live really separated from each others. The Swiss French community tends to be liberalism while the Swiss German community tends to be more conservative. Even if all important infrastructures in Bern are officially bilingual, in a few parts of the city, only one language is apparent, making it less welcoming to the other community. Additionally, language barrier is also a problem since not every German can speak French and vice-versa for example, thus they are exchanging in another language that both can understand, and it is usually English.
Another example is the canton of Graubünden, where three languages are used alongside as official languages. The problem is almost the same as the one in Bern, but this time, the third language (Romansh) bring another problem. Romansh is Swiss’ own and forth language, but unlike the three others, it has a less important status. Less than 1% of the Swiss population can speak that language and people who speaks it tends to be really conservative and does not want to speak another language.
As for my personal opinion, Switzerland has this issue that I find really peculiar since it has four official language in its constitution, and yet it have English as its fifth “non-official” language. What makes it more particular is since they are all “Europeans,” there is not a dramatic separation of races that one can see at first. For example, who can actually differentiate between a German Swiss from a French Swiss? It is easier to differentiate, for example, Asians from Europeans. It is only once that we start to speak with them that we realise how different these two are and that there is a less clear separation between them. Swiss government have tried many solutions to bring its inhabitants together, but it is not simple. They tried to create a national TV cable channel, diffusing contents in the four languages, but it did not work since they did not have the same interests. Despite all these social, cultural and political differences, Swiss people are still proud to be Swiss and even if their heritage are not all the same, they still try to live along with each others.
(Additional source) http://lenews.ch/2014/05/22/swiss-language/