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  #21  
Old 07.07.2015, 02:41
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Re: Learning the language

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There's also a category of people (of which I'm a member) who desperately WANT to show this respect by being able to speak the lingo, and who spend thousands of CHFs and hours trying to reach that level of cultural politeness, but who find it extremely difficult to make lasting progress.

I hate the thought that I'm considered disrespectful by not being fluent in German (not to mention Swiss German), and I hate the sense of fear I feel when the phone rings, but despite trying lots of different methods, I continue to struggle after 5 years or so.

But I'm not giving up.
It's possible that Squeeze is including you in his opening post, but I strongly suspect he is referring more to people who live in Switzerland and don't even TRY to learn the local language, rather than people who are trying but are struggling to become fluent.
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Old 07.07.2015, 03:02
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Re: Learning the language

I speak High German but I am continually frustrated at how little I understand of Swiss German and how people seem to cold and off-put because I don't speak or understand their dialect. Literally the people at supermarkets will respond to me in swissgerman and I don't understand what they're saying, and if I ask them to repeat they flip out.

Is it even worth it to learn Swiss German or should I just focus on improving High German and hope that helps?
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  #23  
Old 07.07.2015, 08:48
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Re: Learning the language

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I speak High German but I am continually frustrated at how little I understand of Swiss German and how people seem to cold and off-put because I don't speak or understand their dialect. Literally the people at supermarkets will respond to me in swissgerman and I don't understand what they're saying, and if I ask them to repeat they flip out.

Is it even worth it to learn Swiss German or should I just focus on improving High German and hope that helps?
I really don't speak German very well, High or Swiss, but my understanding of Swiss German has improved a lot after I started watching the Swiss news on television. I still have to watch them in French or Engøish to really know what's going on in the world, but the Swiss version sort of gets the local dialects in my ears. Supermarket German is no longer a problem, and talking to the building's handyman is no llonger a nightmare.

Keep in mind, as my German teacher pointed out, that for the Swiss High German is basically a foreign language and it's not that easy for all of them to speak it, even if they all learn it at school. And many aren't that comfortable speaking High German or don't speak it very well. Given that the supermarket people are unlikely to have gone to school very long, I wouldn't expect them to be strong inn languages.

When we ask a Swiss German to switch to High German, it's a bit like asking a Portugese to switch to Spanish or a Norwegian to switch to Swedish. Some can do it well, some can sort of do it, and some will struggle and feel very uncomfrotable. Even if everyone here can write High German, speaking it well is a different matter.

When I don't understand (mostly over the phone and with workers or delivery people), I give people a face-saving way out by saying something like "I'm sorry my German isn't very good and I didn't understand, could you repeat in High German or speak slowly please?". Usually I get an understandable answer in "simplified" Swiss German. If I need to ask something very complicated or explain an issue, I often end up speaking English and them answering in Germen, Swiss or otherwise.
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Old 07.07.2015, 10:03
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Re: Learning the language

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When we ask a Swiss German to switch to High German, it's a bit like asking a Portugese to switch to Spanish or a Norwegian to switch to Swedish. Some can do it well, some can sort of do it, and some will struggle and feel very uncomfrotable. Even if everyone here can write High German, speaking it well is a different matter.
No. Portugese people don't spent 12 years in Spanish school and Norwegians don't spend 12 years in Swedish school either.

I am a teacher and the young people who pretend High German is foreign to them and prefer speak English with you just spent a whole school year speaking High German to me and quite a few other teachers.

Don't fall for the usual "swiss German is our mother tongue" fallacy. They don't speak High German to you because they don't want to. In school with me, they are perfectly fluent because they have to to get their diploma.
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  #25  
Old 07.07.2015, 10:06
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Re: Learning the language

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I speak High German but I am continually frustrated at how little I understand of Swiss German and how people seem to cold and off-put because I don't speak or understand their dialect. Literally the people at supermarkets will respond to me in swissgerman and I don't understand what they're saying, and if I ask them to repeat they flip out.
Are you aware of that these people are actually in the same situation as you are?

Well, actually they are in a much worse situation than you! (Though I doubt that you are in a bad situation at all! Rather an extremely privileged one probably)

Because 99% of these women at cashiers (yes, almost only women) are either foreigners themselves, namely immigrants (and not uber-spoiled expats!!!), or so-called secondos (children of them, but who grew up in Switzerland) with no or just minimal education, often less than what you could expect from anybody who has been educated in Switzerland.

Because most of them are immigrants from economic weak countries, you could also call them economic asylees. In fact quite a few of them are or have been asylees. And what you consider to be Swiss German is actually a kind of Swiss German pidgin, a foreign language for them for sure, besides their mother tongue in Turkish, Serbo-Kroation, Albanian, Syrian, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil or whatever. However, hardly anymore any Italians, for example, since they profoundly moved up the societal ladder since the seventies.

These supermarket workers, which work on the second lowest level of the Swiss job market, just learned the language (Swiss German pidgin) from listening. Nobody told them how to use it (left off correctly). They did not have money, or worse, even the time besides their family tasks to spend in language schools. In the best case, they learned it from their children. But you meet also many former children from such immigrants (Secondos) who are still not yet able to speak a proper Swiss German (besides their mother language), even though they were raised in Switzerland and have been educated here. So do not even mention or even think of any educated High German in this context, please!

So if you expect them to speak High German, then you are the one who is ignorant and should be ashamed, just because YOU are not able to distinguish between native Swiss German speakers and everybody else. What you call "they flip out" is nothing else than the expression of their own embarrassment that YOU triggered (combined with their anger about their own minor ability to speak it better combined with their unconscious anger about their underprivileged situation .... and so on ... you name it)!!!

So please, consider this the next time you talk from your high horse position to a mother who has to work during the time when their children should have their thorough attention, support and love instead, but they aren't able to be at home, since they can serve you for a minimal income while you can have the luxury to shop after your so precious working time!!!

Such attitudes make me so sick, I can tell you.
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Old 07.07.2015, 10:17
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Re: Learning the language

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No. Portugese people don't spent 12 years in Spanish school and Norwegians don't spend 12 years in Swedish school either.

I am a teacher and the young people who pretend High German is foreign to them and prefer speak English with you just spent a whole school year speaking High German to me and quite a few other teachers.

Don't fall for the usual "swiss German is our mother tongue" fallacy. They don't speak High German to you because they don't want to. In school with me, they are perfectly fluent because they have to to get their diploma.
The ones who work at supermarket cashiers do not have been educated for 12 years, perhaps not even for the minimal 9 years, and most of them not in Switzerland!
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Old 07.07.2015, 10:36
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Re: Learning the language

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The ones who work at supermarket cashiers do not have been educated for 12 years, perhaps not even for the minimal 9 years, and most of them not in Switzerland!
Swiss refusing to speak High German are not all immigrants who grew up in a foreogn country, most of them aren't at all. My message stands.

The cashiers you like so much have been here for many years and went to school in High German as you said for nine years. Of course it's not the same level of competrnce in High German as my top philosophy students, but it is more than enough to pronounce a couple of sentences the High German way in daily life, even at the cash register. You highly underestimate the cashiers, it's border line insulting to them.
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  #28  
Old 07.07.2015, 10:47
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Re: Learning the language

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Swiss refusing to speak High German and not all immigrants who grew up in a foreogn country, most of them aren't at all. My message stands.

The cashiers you like so much have been here for many years and went to school in High German as you said for nine years. Of course it's not the same level of competrnce in High German as my top philosophy students, but it is more than enough to pronounce a couple of sentences the High German way in daily life, even at the cash register. You highly underestimate the cashiers, it's border line insulting to them.
You can close your eyes about reality as long as you like but you are very wrong. Go and talk to them, ask them to tell you their stories! Have you ever done this just once?! I very much doubt so.

Such arrogant and ignorant people like you make me so sick And that's exactely the reason why such over-spoiled expats like you are so unwelcomed here, because they unconsideredly break up what we call the social peace many Swiss people have been fighting for for decades. Just go home and vuck up your own countries!
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  #29  
Old 07.07.2015, 10:56
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Re: Learning the language

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Swiss refusing to speak High German and not all immigrants who grew up in a foreogn country, most of them aren't at all. My message stands.

The cashiers you like so much have been here for many years and went to school in High German as you said for nine years. Of course it's not the same level of competrnce in High German as my top philosophy students, but it is more than enough to pronounce a couple of sentences the High German way in daily life, even at the cash register. You highly underestimate the cashiers, it's border line insulting to them.
They might write it without speaking it well. To use an example from my home country, in Québec we learn how to write standard French just like in France, but not that many of us can speak French like in France. I do, but my dad can't, even if he tries, although his written French is excellent.

Personally I don't mind at all, with a little good will from BOTH sides one usually get things done. And I say that with the experience of someone who speaks far from fluent German (Swiss or otherwise) and had to deal with workers in her flat every week for more than a month last fall.

Back to the Norwegian thing, if you've every been there you would know that in Norway one writes either nynorsk or bokmål, but speak dialect which can be pretty far from the written form. I write bokmål and speak Bergen dialect, they aren't really close, but I couldn't speak Trondheim or Oslo dialect if life depended on it. And one would never ask someone from say Værdal to switch over to Oslo dialect just because it's easier to understand for the majority. 20 years on and after studying and working there, I still struggle to understand my sister-in-law from outside Trondheim. But so does my Norwegian husband.
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  #30  
Old 07.07.2015, 12:29
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Re: Learning the language

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They might write it without speaking it well.

Back to the Norwegian thing, if you've every been there you would know...
Nobody ask Swiss people to speak High German well,as defined by Germany. Swiss High German is perfectly reasonable to expect from German speaking Swiss citizens. And my students speak perfectly well High German the Swiss way, which is perfectly fine and perfectly German.

About Norway: little do one know about people on the internet... I used to teach state school in Oslo. The situation is not the same as in Switzerland. I am officially trained by Oslo University to know that.

And Quebec people speak perfectly well French, it doesn't have to be the exact same as in Paris to be correct French either. In Quebec, you can decide youself how easy you make it for French people to understand you. You can if you want to but I insist that I do not expect language to be free from local coloring. It is true for German in Germany as well.
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Old 07.07.2015, 12:47
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Re: Learning the language

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Nobody ask Swiss people to speak High German well,as defined by Germany. Swiss Hogh German is perfectly reasonable to expect from German Swiss citizens. And my students speak perfectly well High German.

About Norway: little do one know about people on the internet... I used to teach state school in Oslo. The situation is not the same as in Switzerland. I am officially trained by Oslo University to know that.
Gee, you've got an interesting background! I like that.

I never said the situations in Norway, Canada, or Spain were exactly the same and I apologise if I gave the impression that I did, but there are some parallels to be drawn when it comes to 1) issues of differing written and spoken forms (written and spoken Norwegian); 2) being alike for not the same (Spanish and Portugese, Swedish and Norwegian); people not being able or willing to speak the normative form (Quebec French vs. French French) or not willing or able to speak the official language (ever tried to get served in French in the western quarters of Montreal?). Swiss German is a language, and yes, people learn High German at school, but it remains a foreign language in spoken form and some people aren't that keen on using it or competent to do so, for a number of reasons I don't really care about.

But as you say, you are a professional and know all this better than I do. My only area of expertise is moving around regularly so that I need to be able to adapt rapidly to local conditions. Personally, I try not to make a fuss about the High vs. Swiss German issue, but hey I'm only a French Canadian who happens to speak French, English and Norwegian fluently and gets by in German.

Frankly, I don't care whether the cashier or delivery guy speaks to me in Swiss German, Hochdeutsch, Luxemburgisch or whatever as long as the person is amiable. In any case, if they put up with my German, I should be able to put up with theirs, whichever version it is.

My goal when I speak to someone is to make myself understood and understand what they say, nothing more and nothing less. And I find that being friendly is more useful to get my message across than requiring that people speak back to me in High German.

With that, I got to run, other things to do than sit in front of the computer all day, even if this discussion in very interesting.

Have a nice day!
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  #32  
Old 07.07.2015, 12:54
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Re: Learning the language

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No need to learn the foriegn lingo. Just replace 'w' with 'v', and occasional 'th' vith 'z' and you shall see zat you are easily understood. Add random 'li' to ze end of short verds and clear your throat several timez in ze sentence to sound cchhhxxxxkkkk authentic. Passat.catastropheraddverdstogether technic.

The European Union commissioners recently announced that an agreement has been reached to adopt English as the preferred language for European communications, rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phased plan for what will be known as EuroEnglish (Euro for short).

In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c." Sertainly, sivil servants will resieve this news with joy. Also, the hard "c" will be replaced with "k". Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced by "f". This will make words like fotograf" 20 persent shorter.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the languag is disgrasful, and they would go.

By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" by "z" and "w" by " v".

During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou", and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.

Ze drem vil finali kom tru.
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  #33  
Old 07.07.2015, 13:44
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Re: Learning the language

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Swiss German is a language, and yes, people learn High German at school, but it remains a foreign language in spoken form.
I understaand why people would say that in colloquial language, but it is a simplification of the linguistic reality as linguists see it. Using very sloppy language when discribing what is a perfectly normal and usual diglossia does however bears the danger to politicize a issue that is purely technical.

It is normal in the German speaking area, incl. Germany, to deal with normative language and dialect at the same time. The northern German dialects even belong more together with Dutch than with the rest of German dialects. Swiss dialects belong to German continuum like all the other German dialects. Swiss people are nothing special and nobody minds them speaking dialect. The issue is about the identification with a normative language. Swiss Germans refusing to identify with High German and claiming it is foreign are doing half the job: dissociation with a linguistic area is fine, the Dutch did it in the 16th century, but nobody in Switzerland is creating a distinct language area either. Swiss Germans are lingistic orphans: they keep the dialect without the normative language. Even the Norwegian who exploded every concept of language, as you know, when they broke the link to Danish, kept the relation to a norm in a flexible way ( nynorsk, bokmål, samnorsk etc...) and the Swiss Germans struggle to go all the way through because the relation to High German is not broken at all. There is no willingness to break this link in the broad society either. They don't want to relate to it but don't reject it either. Hence the contradictions in the official speech about language and dialect when the locals try to explain the language situation to foreigners. Therefore it is fundamental to take what they say with a pinch of salt or two...
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  #34  
Old 07.07.2015, 13:55
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Re: Learning the language

Last week, on realising she'd missed her bus (I sitting nearby waiting for mine), this women shouted literally at me in English: "Oh my god, my bus has gone, why does it stop here? Do you know if it should be stopping here? Did it leave early? Why hasn't it stopped right here?"...)










As it was my language, I helped her out a little, but I was a little shocked that she did not even try the usual "Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?", with the shouting on top of that (a reflex with monolingual people, who assume the louder they talk at you, somehow it will make you understand them!)
In other words, YES, DO learn at least the basics, it's a question of good manners if not integration.
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Old 07.07.2015, 14:27
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Re: Learning the language

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Such arrogant and ignorant people like you make me so sick And that's exactely the reason why such over-spoiled expats like you are so unwelcomed here
You're an idiot, and a rude and insulting one too (please do not repeat). All else apart a very quick read through some old posts would tell you that the person you're replying to is not an ex-pat.

Doesn't mean you have to agree with him, of course, but that's not the point.
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Old 07.07.2015, 14:38
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Re: Learning the language

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In Zürich it is actually difficult to learn German/Swiss German. Almost everyone speaks English well. At the very beginning I went into the SBC (now UBS) having practiced all the way to the bank presented my card and said "Ich möchte 200 Franken von mein Konto abziehen, bitte." The teller immediately replied in perfect Oxford English "Would you like that in Hundreds or Fifties, sir?"
I am clearly a foreigner - Chinese in appearance, British passport. However, I've not found this "default to English" on many occasions - I've conducted my registration, all transport-related issues, insurances etc. all in German. Oddly the ones who do switch tend to be bar staff. Then a simple, "Tut mir leid, Deutsch ist für mich eine Fremdsprache aber wenn es für Sie günstig ist, möchte ich gerne auf Deutsch probieren" helps
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Old 07.07.2015, 16:22
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Re: Learning the language

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The cashiers you like so much have been here for many years and went to school in High German as you said for nine years. Of course it's not the same level of competence in High German as my top philosophy students, but it is more than enough to pronounce a couple of sentences the High German way in daily life, even at the cash register. You highly underestimate the cashiers, it's border line insulting to them.
If the Swiss economy is anything like the US economy, it would not shock me if Swiss university graduates with degrees in Philosophy or German Language & Literature are working in supermarkets.
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