8 fun ideas on how to learn Swiss German
Published on October 17, 2022 / Updated on January 5, 2024
Switzerland speaks four official languages. Alas, Swiss German is not one of them. While German, French, Italian and Romansh reflect the historical connections of the small country with its neighbors, Swiss German is the spoken language of a big part of the German-speaking portions of Switzerland. In fact, Swiss German is not a language, but a standardized form of a group of Alemannic dialects. This means it is rather close to standard German. Furthermore,most people in Switzerland are fluent in German, and you might ask yourself why you should even bother with a language that makes abundant use of notoriously difficult sounds such as ch (like in German acht), ü or ä. Well, Swiss German comes with some advantages, too, that make learning easy and fun. Here is how to learn it.
How hard is it to learn Swiss German? While the distinct pronunciation of many popular sounds in Swiss German might put you off from learning the language at first, you should consider two things: First,Swiss German is a rather easy language to learn for German speakers. After all, it is a group of German dialects. You already know most of the vocabulary and grammar of Swiss German. Even better, the reasonable Swiss spared themselves a lot of the complications of the standard German: no ß, just the perfect tense and no simple past, one diminutive –li instead of –lein (Wäägli for German Wäglein – small cart) or –chen (Müüsli for German Mäuschen – small mouse), no –n at the end of the infinitive (läbe for German leben – to live, ich läb(e) for German ich lebe – I live) and in the middle of compound words and no diphthongs, to name a few. And you can try to remember the right article and mumble it instead We’ll show you how to learn Swiss German fast.
Melody and rhythm help us memorize new vocabulary in context. So check out artists like Mani Matter or Airbäg and join them in singing in Swiss German. With time, you will get the pronunciation right and be able to impress your friends talking about music. For bonus points, translate a song into standard German and think about the differences.
A fun way to improve your listening comprehension and pronunciation is listening to the radio. Learn from the music and introduce yourself to bits of talk with the advertisements or the news. Then take it to the next level with a podcast. You can even do this while doing the dishes or on your way to work.
If you feel a visual clue would help, turn on the TV. The context of a movie makes understanding what is said so much easier, and even the gestures and facial expressions of the news speaker can help you. Still not enough? Follow the subtitles until you feel you don’t need them anymore.
Explore the culinary side of your (potential) host country by taking to regional cuisine. Surprise your friends with hot meals and baked goods following recipes in Swiss German. They will let you know if you got the meaning wrong.
Friends are always good to have and especially helpful when you are new to a country. Socializing is also a good way to immerse yourself in the language. Speed up your learning while having fun. A good way to make friends is by joining a sports club or some other kind of organized activity. If you are shy, try a single word now and then. Greet them with Grüezi (hello) and say goodbye with Guet Nacht, which means good night in Swiss German.
For a quick start, try to learn these Swiss German words:
Merci vilmal – thanks a lot
Pröschtli! – Cheers!
Gömmer? – Shall we go?
Chuntsch? – Are you coming?
Kolleg/Kollegin – friend (male/female)
Hüüsli – toilet
Learning Swiss German may not be easy, but if you have a fair knowledge of standard German, you will get there. Indeed, you will have lots of fun doing so. If you are wondering how to learn Swiss German fast, listen to music, turn on the radio, watch TV, make friends, get into the kitchen or find a hobby to immerse yourself into Swiss German and Swiss culture.