I learned German but will that work in Switzerland

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none
none
15 posts
new member
Sep 1, 2019 - 2:57 PM

I am heading for Switzerland on Wednesday and since I will be spending time in the German speaking part of Switzerland, have been learning a few words and phrases in the German language. Just yesterday, though, I found out it was all for naught since what they speak, Swiss-German, is different, including their word for hello (gruezi)). Should I start over again or would the words I learned in German ( for good morning, good day, thank you etc.) be appropriate?

Arno
Arno
14082 posts
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moderator
Sep 1, 2019 - 3:48 PM

Hi None,

It's great that you learned some German words! That will work just fine, there is no need to learn Swiss-German, although you'll probably pick up a few words while there. Apart from that, there are many dialects even within the German speaking regions of Switzerland. It would be impossible to learn all of those.

The other way around would be more difficult: Grüezi does not work in Germany.

1960man
1960man
2182 posts
top member
Sep 1, 2019 - 11:35 PM in reply to none

Swiss-German is as much German as any other dialect of German (eg Hamburg German sounds very different to Bavarian German). You will be well understood using all the normal German words. Even the legendary Gruezi is not universal (Bernese often say a word more like Grüsse). In any case, 'Hallo' works just as well.

example - morning greeting: Even though a Swiss a Swiss-German might say something that sounds like 'Morchker' they will understand you if you have said the high German 'Morgen' in response.

example - evening: high German is 'abend' but most Swiss say 'Arbig', but they will understand you if you have said 'abend'

There is one oddity to know about. For 'thank you' German speaking Swiss often say 'Merci' (like in French) but again, that doesn't mean that person will not understand you if you say 'danke'.

Last modified on Sep 1, 2019 - 11:36 PM by 1960man
none
none
15 posts
new member
Sep 2, 2019 - 2:39 AM in reply to Arno

Thank you so much, Arno and 1960man, for such a quick response. I feel so much better now knowing my aging mind does not have to relearn German to Swiss-German. I did think it was a little odd when I saw that their "thank you" was merci vilmal. Is merci enough? What does the vilmal mean? I do know enough French to get by in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Thanks again for your response. Any other suggestions for words/phrases I should know that may be a bit different from Germany?

Reenavaish
Reenavaish
9 posts
new member
Sep 2, 2019 - 4:29 PM

We spent time in both German and French speaking Switzerland and I speak only English! We never faced any language challenge and as long as you are polite, people generally try to help you even in some of the smaller villages. Once we got lost, and one guy walking his dog, actually showed us the path to follow using broken English and gestures 😊

Steph
Steph
1918 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 2, 2019 - 5:46 PM in reply to none

Hi None,

Nice to hear you're making an effort in the first place! I think that's what it's all about when abroad..no?!?!

Generally you can say that everyone in Switzerland understands "High"German (as we call it) and will be positively surprised and respond to you using your German skills. On the other side you will find lots of Swiss people thinking "Oh, a native English speaker, I want to practice my English" :D

I personally am always very positively surprised, when sometime after meeting a "tourist" they suddenly produce very well spoken German expressions!

Liebe Grüsse und Adieu (often used goodbye in Switzerland, actually French)
Steph

none
none
15 posts
new member
Sep 2, 2019 - 10:27 PM in reply to Reenavaish

Reenavaish and Steph.

Thank you for your responses. Reenavaish, I am not as much concerned about the language barrier, but when I travel I would like to at least learn some of the pleasantries of the country in which I will be traveling. Everything I read states how pleased the natives are when tourists make an effort. Now I just need to find a pronounciation guide to learn these new words. Steph, doing my research, I did not run across Liebe Grusse.but something like auf wiederlueggen (not sure of the spelling)

1960man
1960man
2182 posts
top member
Sep 2, 2019 - 11:07 PM in reply to none

something like auf wiederlueggen

perhaps it was 'auf wiederhoeren'

If so that means 'until we hear again, aka until we speak again, aka 'talk to you later'

Last modified on Sep 2, 2019 - 11:08 PM by 1960man
1960man
1960man
2182 posts
top member
Sep 2, 2019 - 11:10 PM

"On the other side you will find lots of Swiss people thinking "Oh, a native English speaker, I want to practice my English" :D"

This thread picks up on a point that really irritates me when travelling. Because English is the 'world language' us native English speakers who want to practice other languages never get a flippin' chance to do so!

In Switzerland when it happens, I stoically continue in German

Last modified on Sep 2, 2019 - 11:13 PM by 1960man
1960man
1960man
2182 posts
top member
Sep 2, 2019 - 11:24 PM in reply to none

it is vielmals (usually silent s), not vilmal (viel = many; mal(s) = times), so Merci or danke vielmal is thanks a lot. Vielen Dank (Many thanks) will be understood too.

Steph's 'Adieu' is a good one too - another crossover but in this case you hear high German people say it , not just Swiss. It is common to say Adieu to other people in a railway carriage when you alight, even if you haven't spoken to any of them.

Steph
Steph
1918 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 3, 2019 - 9:00 AM in reply to 1960man

Hi everyone,

Now here we get to the fact that Swiss German has NO spelling, so "vielmal" is the correct spelling, however the "e" is silent, resp. streches the I sound, so vilmals could be Swiss spelling,if it existed! :)

Uf widerluege is for sure a good way to say goodbye!

And the "Liebe Grüsse" of my former page was for sure written German, well spotted!

I'm here to provide further input.

Uf widerluege mitenand (together)

Steph :)

none
none
15 posts
new member
Sep 3, 2019 - 4:27 PM in reply to 1960man

I checked for the spelling. It is uf Widerluege.. Also is "merci" pronounced with the rolling r as they pronounce it in French or Mercy as pronounced in English? Thanks for your help.

Steph
Steph
1918 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 3, 2019 - 6:11 PM in reply to none

With the rolled R, and again, Swiss German has no official spelling, it's a fact!

Enjoy emerging yourself into the varieties of language.

Best,
Steph

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
6776 posts
expert
Sep 4, 2019 - 1:48 AM in reply to none

"did think it was a little odd when I saw that their "thank you" was merci vilmal. Is merci enough? What does the vilmal mean?"

There are a lot of ways to say thank you. Any one that you choose will be appreciated. If you use "merci" alone, you will prefer the French pronunciation.

If you are very fussy, and the Swiss person you are talking to is traditionalist, you will find that the Swiss say the eclectic "Merci vielmal" ( not a German "r" in that, pretty much an English or American "r"), and you may well be corrected if you say the correct German "vielmals" (many times). The Swiss distinguish them selves by using "vielmal" or "vilmal."

A Swiss person hearing your American accent may be a bit surprised that you know "merci vielmal" and perhaps comment with a grin that you know a little Swiss German. Auf Deutsch- "ein bisschen." Swiss German..."es bitzeli."

Slowpoke

andrew
andrew
98 posts
active member
Sep 8, 2019 - 6:28 PM

More than anything else, I've many times heard 'merci' pronounced as 'messy'!

I love the mixtures of French and German, for example, "Alle billet bitte".

Andrew

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