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Old 04.11.2011, 20:55
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is it so hard to speak High German?

Hi,

I just want to put this out there for discussion.

Our neighbor invites everyone in our building for a get together twice a year. We all have very good relationship with each other so no problem there.

All our neighbors are Swiss. Including one English Teacher(who is Swiss) and 3 other Swiss people who speaks rather fluent English. I speak High German with everyone. My German isn't great but I don't have much problem communicating and I think they appreciate that I try speaking in German.

The problem is that at the party everyone speaks only Swiss German.

All my neighbors know that my Swiss German is poor so they all individually speak High German with me. I do understand a little bit of Zurich dialect but trying to follow and participate in a conversation is nearly impossible for me specially when every one speaks not only Zurich dialect but other regional dialect. So I tend to just eat and smile.

My husband is German, sometimes he translates for me so that I can at least follow the conversation but you know how it is in the party, nearly impossible to have fun that way for both of us. Some people notice that but just smiles and go right back on speaking in Swiss German.

I find this very rude although what I find rude isn't always rude to Swiss people(not Swiss bashing just difference in culture and opinions!)....

I personally think it's a common courtesy if one invites someone like me to a party then at least speak the language where everyone understands. I do not ask anyone to speak in English for me but at least in High German, after all everyone at the party do understand High German. In that way everyone can enjoy the party. By the way all my neighbors speak perfect High German so that is not a issue.

The party is going on right now and I decided not to attend...
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Old 04.11.2011, 20:59
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

Situations make me NEED to learn Swiss German

Every attempt helps in any kind of German IMO.
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:04
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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I personally think it's a common courtesy if one invites someone like me to a party then at least speak the language where everyone understands.
Sorry, but we NEVER do that.

Everyone speaks whatever they want, and often have 5-6 languages going on in the course of the evening.

Only recently have my children started speaking Italian to each other when non-English speaking friends are present (and they are 18/21), and I still speak English or French to others regardless of what other people speak.

In any case, my wife only speaks Italian, should I oblige everyone to only speak Italian?

Tom
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:07
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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The party is going on right now and I decided not to attend...
You should go, keep eating and drinking, you won't need to talk to anyone with a mouth full of food.
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:08
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

I think it is your loss.

when I am with my friends I speak Flemish cause it is a habit without thinking. I try to go in Dutch (my sistersbf is dutch) and I speak Flemish with him. he doesnt get me sometimes and I dont get him sometimes (amsterdam dialect) we manage just fine; granted the difference is a bit less but same concept.

and It is the only way YOU will learn Swiss German. conversation, conversation,conversation

Just my opinion
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:11
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

At our school meetings, They all speak Catalan, while they know full well that I am learning Spanish. Should they all switch in Spanish for me? Nope.

But I found help into the English teacher who help me out!
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:11
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

I would guess that the slip back into SG is almost unconscious - happens all the time.

Whenever I am with a group of Swiss colleagues the conversation starts out in HG, for my benefit. But as the discussion gets livelier, someone naturally slips into SG as he/she is trying to make a point. And then someone else does, and so on and so on. It's not intentional - it's just that people are of course more comfortable in their mother tongue.

Honestly I take it as a sort of side-ways compliment - at least I hope my nodding and smiling in the right places fools people into thinking I can understand more SG than I really do.

But then I join the conversation, my atrocious grammar reminds everyone, and things continue in HG. For a while.

It's only natural - and usually not intentional at all. And I'm sure I've been guilty of the same thing when with a mixed English- and German-speaking group.

I love the conversations that flip back and forth between languages - keeps me on my toes.

Last edited by meloncollie; 04.11.2011 at 21:28.
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:13
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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Sorry, but we NEVER do that.

Everyone speaks whatever they want, and often have 5-6 languages going on in the course of the evening.

In any case, my wife only speaks Italian, should I oblige everyone to only speak Italian?

Tom
Perhaps I can understand better if there are 5-6 languages going on in this party but there are only one, Swiss German. Sure everyone can speak what ever they want but it would be nice to be invited knowing at least the host will speak High German where she knows very well that I understand! Too much to ask???
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:15
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

It's a bit like asking a group of Geordies to speak the Queen's English during a relaxed, fun evening in Newcastle just because one person doesn't understand - it would spoil THEIR FUN. They would try and teach you Geordie of course - how about you ask your Swiss neighbours to teach you stuff? They'll not only have fun but seeing just how hard it is to understand might make them more likely to make an effort? We just don't like being forced to speak what is really a foreign language to us outside of work, sorry...
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:19
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While I understand your irritation, look at it from their point of view.

They're at a party with a bunch of friends. Sure, they make an effort when speaking with you. But would you want to speak to your mates all night in what is essentially a foreign language.

They cut you some slack. Maybe you should cut them some too.
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:21
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

Was hesch für es Problem? I verschtah cheis Wort....
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:23
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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I think it is your loss.
Perhaps it's my loss but today I take it gladly. Sometimes a girl just need a break from trying to integrate!!!

Besides I have a company of you guys!!!
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:30
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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Perhaps I can understand better if there are 5-6 languages going on in this party but there are only one, Swiss German. Sure everyone can speak what ever they want but it would be nice to be invited knowing at least the host will speak High German where she knows very well that I understand! Too much to ask???
Yes, it is too much to ask. The common language seems to be Swiss German, so that is what is going to be spoken by people who are relaxing and having fun. The most you can hope for is that individually, people will take a little time to speak with you in HG.

Coping strategies for you can include not going ( as you are doing this time) initiating conversations in HG ( more likely to get HG responses at least till soeone else joins in the conversation) taking over the hostess/cleanerupper role,so you have something to do and which will give the opportunity for you to have short HG exchanges between dish washer loads, or take something to the party that will keep you occupied whilst being a semi involved, semi listening situation - knitting/crochet may give people the impression that you are a little eccentric, but it also gives something for others to initiate talk with you at times, without them obliged to spend hours in HG just because of you.

Or invite everyone to your place , where they may be more inclined to speak the language of your home.
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:33
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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Perhaps I can understand better if there are 5-6 languages going on in this party but there are only one, Swiss German. Sure everyone can speak what ever they want but it would be nice to be invited knowing at least the host will speak High German where she knows very well that I understand! Too much to ask???
When I go visit my wife's cousins, they speak a mish/mash of northern Italian/Lombardian. Clearly, one or the other would be easier, but I would really think it rude of myself to ask them to stick to one dialect.

At work, we freely mix languages AND dialects!

Decades ago, when I first came to CH, I met a guy from Scotland, and we ended up speaking French to each other (for a month) as I could NOT understand his English! (he spoke perfect French, however)

Where to draw the line!

Tom
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Old 04.11.2011, 21:38
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

You live here right? I suggest you start learning swiss german cause its VERRRRRY rare that swiss people continue a conversation in high german. I understand how annoying it could be sometimes, I kept going to events for a year and i barely understood anything even though EVERYONE spoke english and now i speak good swiss german (gave up on speaking high german AGES ago even though i understand it pretty well i just hate it) anyways so yeah your brain automatically absorbs the swiss german, so i suggest keep going, and its free food at the end of the day ;p. good luck
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Old 04.11.2011, 22:21
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

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The problem is that at the party everyone speaks only Swiss German.
Keep up the good work with High German and at a certain point, when you feel confortable with it, focus on training your ear to understand Swiss German. Then, you'll be a normal non-Swiss German speaker :
Active: High German
Passive: Swiss German in group and High German often when one to one.

That's normal. The time and effort needed for getting there is normal too. Good luck and don't give up!
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Old 04.11.2011, 22:28
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

My (Swiss) wife doesn't get it why people in Zurich don't understand when she speaks Italian, which is a Swiss language (and the only language that she speaks).

High-German isn't, so why should anyone speak THAT?

Sorry, but I fail to see your point.

Tom

P.S. Personally, I really get annoyed at people who do NOT speak Swiss German (obvious imports with limited local knowledge).

For me, the most fun was in Surselva, and my Maestro didn't work. The woman explained to me in Rumantsch that there was a problem, which I understood. BUT, to resolve the problem, we had to figure out which language to use! (think we ended up with Italian)
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Old 04.11.2011, 23:27
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

I had a colleague (and eventually very close friend) back in the US who came to the States as a foreign expat. best thing he taught me was to try, try, try the local language, and never be afraid to act or look stupid in your efforts to learn. and don't be afraid to ask people to slow down and repeat themselves. even though I can be reasonably conversational in Spanish (my colleague's native tongue), the language I want to speak over a beer is English. not everybody appreciated my friend's efforts at English, of course, but then again not everybody appreciates my jokes, the color of my hair, the sports or music I like, etc. whatever.

having only moved here recently, my German is horrible and Swiss German even worse. but it's never going to improve without trying, and for sure it will never improve if everybody arounds me babies me by speaking only English. I find that about half of those whom I ask to slow down or repeat themselves are more than happy to help me learn, and the other half simply ignore me or shoot me a scowl. those percentages, btw, are better than the hit rate on my jokes. I suspect that the percentage of folks who are more than happy to help you learn increases with consumption of beer or wine and the casual atmosphere of a party or friendly get-together.
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Old 05.11.2011, 00:20
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

Personally I would like to put up for discussion how come some people don't even bother to figure out the name of the country they are moving to......
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Old 05.11.2011, 00:53
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Re: is it so hard to speak High German?

not to attend is not the answer!
You just exclude yourself and even worse they could think you are bitchy...

I am native Swiss, my wife is Russian. So the "Amt for Migration" suggested that we should speak Standard German to each other, not Swiss Dialect, not English. For me: it would be reason for a divorce. Honestly!

You have to understand that we Swiss have mentally by birth a handicap with the German language. It makes us feel bad, my tongue starts to hurt, the gum swallows, spit productions increases to an uncomfortable level.
We call it a "neck disease". Yes, we can speak Standard German, but we get goose bumps doing so. This is not against you, its our nature!

I even can speak German without Swiss federal accent, but I shiver doing so.

...and throughly: if I go to your home country, who should adapt?
Language is training and getting "an ear" for it. Just patience and heads up!

or as we say: "masters don't fall from sky - they would not survive the impact"

George
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