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Old 15.08.2011, 02:09
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Anyway, the same old story emerges. People will respond to me in High German or English, but then immediately switch to Swiss German when speaking about the same thing to the person next to me, with no translation, cutting me out of the conversation completely.
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Regrettable, but nobody here will speak in Standard German with another dialect speaker, but because a foreigner is around


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I lived in China for a few months, speak intermediate Mandarin Chinese, but had the same experience in Shanghai, the exact same. Having been in Beijing and Chengdu was refreshing because I'm speaking the language most peopel speak everyday (Mandarin, with some regional accent and slang but it is not a completely different langauge, as Shanghainese and Mandarin are). Shanghainese, like Swiss German are not written languages either, not really (that's complicated and I don't want to get into how Chinese written language is structured, the lack of alphabet, etc).
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So that Shanghainese is the Züritüütsch of China


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Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that spending time learning a language that is not spoken is pointless.
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NOT spoken ? It IS spoken not too far away anyway PLUS in the city and Canton parliaments of Schaffhausen


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What I care about is being able to communicate with Swiss people. High German is fine for a one: one conversation, but useless in groups, and I also find many Swiss do not want to speak High German anyway, it makes them unconformable (something many Swiss have said to be directly, including my girlfriend).
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Swiss people from the Romandie and from the Ticino may rather try to speak with you in High German than in dialects.


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However, Swiss also say that learning "Swiss German (dialects)" without speaking High German as an adult is nearly impossible.
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Learning High German gives you the basics common to the many German dialects between the North Sea and the San Gottardo



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Migros Schule (at least some of them) teach Swiss German classes. What are they teaching if it is not possible? what dialect? What grammar?
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If in Zürich, it is Züritüütsch



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That is a bad analogy, but my point is learning any common Swiss German dialect is more useful than High German, because the Swiss German word is likely similar in the other dialect, but not the same, it is almost always closer than the High German equivalent.
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No, Züritüütsch and Schaffuuserisch are much closer to the dialects right north of the border than to Baaslerisch or Bärnerisch.



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This would all be more simple, and foreigners could integrate more easily if the Swiss had just standardized their language like the Luxemburgers and Dutch, but that's also another topic...and a pointless one, since it won't happen.
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NO NO NO NO NO. There never was a "Swiss language" (Luxemburgers speak Lechteburgisch and no other dialect) and NOBODY in Zürich would ever have been ready to "standardize" with Baaseltüütsch. And unlike the Dutch who blocked their link with German culture, German speakers in Switzerland wanted to continue with the participation in German culture (poetry, literature in general, newspapers, theatre, TV+films, etc). I think that the Dutch in this aspect made a heavy mistake.

To me, Standard German up from class nr 2 put me up into the top for all of school-time (from the bottom) in regard to German, so that I would oppose your suggestion above always and thoroughly
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Old 15.08.2011, 02:20
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

The other people at the EF are in much better positions to give advice to the OP, so I will ask a question instead. Is there a better way for to teach local Swiss-German dialect to non-standard-German speakers, or is it like learning your multiplication tables? As a kid, I didn't like the fact that to learn to multiply there was no other way to do it than to memorize a huge table of data (6 * 3 =18; 7 * 4 = 28) but as an adult I realize there is no other way. Is there no other way to learn Swiss-German except to learn standard German first and ONLY then take lessons in Swiss-German?
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Old 15.08.2011, 08:39
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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I'm still not sure why you groaned. I was not saying that Swiss people should speak another language. I was simply outlining the situation and saying that there may be a more efficient way for me to communicate with them in a language they actually speak.

It is not the same everywhere. I speak another language already, so it is not like I have no experience.

I never asked that Swiss people speak English to me or even high German. That's not the point. The point is how to communicate, because English and even High German is typically useless in a group context.
Ok so what you are saying is that you want two people who have swiss german as mother tongue (and are in a swiss german speaking country), to switch to english or high german (which they may not feel comfortable talking in) so that you, a foreigner (who complains about their traditions ie wedding duration) can undestand?
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  #44  
Old 15.08.2011, 14:26
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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The other people at the EF are in much better positions to give advice to the OP, so I will ask a question instead. Is there a better way for to teach local Swiss-German dialect to non-standard-German speakers, or is it like learning your multiplication tables? As a kid, I didn't like the fact that to learn to multiply there was no other way to do it than to memorize a huge table of data (6 * 3 =18; 7 * 4 = 28) but as an adult I realize there is no other way. Is there no other way to learn Swiss-German except to learn standard German first and ONLY then take lessons in Swiss-German?
Most people who set out to learn Swiss German will either already read/write some standard German, or aspire to read/write it eventually (who wants to be an illiterate?) so that's the obvious language pair for writing textbooks, teaching materials etc. There are a few English-to-Swiss-German resources but the demand just isn't there.

It depends on what you mean by "way" though. Somebody who's good at learning new words aurally can listen to lots of Swiss radio, watch lots of TV, talk to lots of people, and pick up everything he needs to know that way. If you're like me and need to see a new word to remember it, you'll be struggling. There are a few places you can see the language written: textbooks - they're mostly in German, but even if you can't read the explanation the examples are still helpful - a few newspaper columns and the Blick am Abend "Schatzchaeschtli" (a column that prints selected SMS shoutouts to loved ones or missed connections.)

---------------------------------------------

Swiss German isn't, as some on this thread have suggested, an unwritten language. Rather, it's a language with a written standard and a bunch of spoken dialects. Call this written standard "Schriftdeutsch" instead of "Hochdeutsch" if it makes you feel better.

In this regard it's no different from lots of other languages, including English. Dialect forms are occasionally written down in their full variant glory (ever read any Mark Twain?) but generally we stick to a written standard. So do the Swiss. We mightn't like to be asked to speak strictly according to that standard for any length of time though, and neither do the Swiss.

Go on, as an American you probably know someone who does a pretty tolerable British accent, or an Irish accent, or a George Bush impersonation. Ask them to keep it up for a whole evening, though, or to talk that way every time a particular mutual friend is at the table. Hard work, right? You can see why they might lapse back into speaking normally after a while. That's more or less what speaking High German is like for a Swiss person.

(For Brits on this thread, imagine trying to speak strict RP for a whole evening - just for example. If you haven't been schooled to speak that way normally, it's almost impossible.)
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Old 15.08.2011, 14:38
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Most people who set out to learn Swiss German will either already read/write some standard German, or aspire to read/write it eventually (who wants to be an illiterate?) so that's the obvious language pair for writing textbooks, teaching materials etc. There are a few English-to-Swiss-German resources but the demand just isn't there.

It depends on what you mean by "way" though. Somebody who's good at learning new words aurally can listen to lots of Swiss radio, watch lots of TV, talk to lots of people, and pick up everything he needs to know that way. If you're like me and need to see a new word to remember it, you'll be struggling. There are a few places you can see the language written: textbooks - they're mostly in German, but even if you can't read the explanation the examples are still helpful - a few newspaper columns and the Blick am Abend "Schatzchaeschtli" (a column that prints selected SMS shoutouts to loved ones or missed connections.)

---------------------------------------------

Swiss German isn't, as some on this thread have suggested, an unwritten language. Rather, it's a language with a written standard and a bunch of spoken dialects. Call this written standard "Schriftdeutsch" instead of "Hochdeutsch" if it makes you feel better.

In this regard it's no different from lots of other languages, including English. Dialect forms are occasionally written down in their full variant glory (ever read any Mark Twain?) but generally we stick to a written standard. So do the Swiss. We mightn't like to be asked to speak strictly according to that standard for any length of time though, and neither do the Swiss.

Go on, as an American you probably know someone who does a pretty tolerable British accent, or an Irish accent, or a George Bush impersonation. Ask them to keep it up for a whole evening, though, or to talk that way every time a particular mutual friend is at the table. Hard work, right? You can see why they might lapse back into speaking normally after a while. That's more or less what speaking High German is like for a Swiss person.

(For Brits on this thread, imagine trying to speak strict RP for a whole evening - just for example. If you haven't been schooled to speak that way normally, it's almost impossible.)

There's a standard written Swiss-German?
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Old 15.08.2011, 14:40
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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(For Brits on this thread, imagine trying to speak strict RP for a whole evening - just for example. If you haven't been schooled to speak that way normally, it's almost impossible.)
I suppressed my birth accent when I came over here because it was causing problems with people who were non-native English speakers. It was tough for quite a while trying to speak clearly with no colloquialisms and it was a relief when I got either my mum or dad on the phone so I could talk "normally" for an hour or so.

I sympathise with Swiss people having to labour on in High German for us foreigners trying to learn the local language but I have met people who are willing to stretch to high German for the duration of a party and even keep the conversation going to some extent in high German. Alcohol makes it slip a bit but, to be fair, my understanding of Swiss German improved when I was pissed and I made an almost fluent attempt to speak it (or at least I thought after half a bottle of wine).
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Old 15.08.2011, 14:43
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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There's a standard written Swiss-German?
Sure there is. It looks the same as standard written German-German, but without the Eszett (ß).
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Old 15.08.2011, 14:46
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Most people who set out to learn Swiss German will either already read/write some standard German, or aspire to read/write it eventually (who wants to be an illiterate?) so that's the obvious language pair for writing textbooks, teaching materials etc. There are a few English-to-Swiss-German resources but the demand just isn't there.

It depends on what you mean by "way" though. Somebody who's good at learning new words aurally can listen to lots of Swiss radio, watch lots of TV, talk to lots of people, and pick up everything he needs to know that way. If you're like me and need to see a new word to remember it, you'll be struggling. There are a few places you can see the language written: textbooks - they're mostly in German, but even if you can't read the explanation the examples are still helpful - a few newspaper columns and the Blick am Abend "Schatzchaeschtli" (a column that prints selected SMS shoutouts to loved ones or missed connections.)

---------------------------------------------

Swiss German isn't, as some on this thread have suggested, an unwritten language. Rather, it's a language with a written standard and a bunch of spoken dialects. Call this written standard "Schriftdeutsch" instead of "Hochdeutsch" if it makes you feel better.

In this regard it's no different from lots of other languages, including English. Dialect forms are occasionally written down in their full variant glory (ever read any Mark Twain?) but generally we stick to a written standard. So do the Swiss. We mightn't like to be asked to speak strictly according to that standard for any length of time though, and neither do the Swiss.

Go on, as an American you probably know someone who does a pretty tolerable British accent, or an Irish accent, or a George Bush impersonation. Ask them to keep it up for a whole evening, though, or to talk that way every time a particular mutual friend is at the table. Hard work, right? You can see why they might lapse back into speaking normally after a while. That's more or less what speaking High German is like for a Swiss person.

(For Brits on this thread, imagine trying to speak strict RP for a whole evening - just for example. If you haven't been schooled to speak that way normally, it's almost impossible.)
About "Swiss German isn't, as some on this thread have suggested, an unwritten language. Rather, it's a language with a written standard"

OH! really? & where do I find this "written standard"?

There is a standard written language used in Switzerland but it is a Swiss form of High German not an attempt to put Swiss German dialect into a written form
Quote "Swiss Standard German is the official written language in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It is used in books, all official publications (including all laws and regulations), in newspapers, printed notices, most advertising and in other printed matter. Authors write literature in Swiss Standard German, although some specific dialect literature exists. SSG is similar in most respects to the Standard German in Germany and Austria, although there are a few differences in spelling, most notably the replacing of the German ligature ß with ss and in some cases different words are used."
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Old 15.08.2011, 15:03
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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There is a standard written language used in Switzerland but it is a Swiss form of High German not an attempt to put Swiss German dialect into a written form
You might as well say that standard written English is "not an attempt to put Australian dialects of English into a written form". Of course it's not. It's an attempt to get us all spelling things the same way so we can all read what the other fellow is writing. Representing dialects doesn't come into it.

If you want to transcribe dialect speech exactly as it's written you can certainly do that. Mostly it's been only linguists and humorists who've bothered though. The rest of us write using (more or less) standard forms even where those forms fail to represent the way we speak. Most of the time we don't even realize we're doing it: it doesn't seem weird to us because it's our own language (dialect AND written standard) and because we've grown up doing it.

Have you watched a Swiss speaker reading material from his slides (written in standard German) and pronouncing it in Swiss German? I have. It's the most natural thing in the world, just as it is for an English speaker to read standard English and read it out in his own dialect with his own accent.
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Old 15.08.2011, 15:11
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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There is a standard written language used in Switzerland but it is a Swiss form of High German "
I have been learning Hochdeutsch for 5 years now, so I thought it was coming on quite well. Whilst recently in Austria, we chatted to an Austrian holidaymaker who immediately asked if I was Swiss because I spoke Swiss German. My son (who does speak Swiss German) found this hilarious but then kindly explained to the lady that Mummy speaks what passes for German in Switzerland. I have only learnt German here in CH, so I guess he is right.

On a related note, I did the the "Understanding Swiss German" class at the Volkshochschule here in Basel. They taught Baseldeutsch, but the teacher often explained other dialect differences - particularly Baselland differences for me, being where we live. The course was offered in German - and all other participants were German except for me and the teacher. Unfortunately I found I could not easily understand the other German students speaking German (mostly from Northern Germany with very rapid and monotone delivery) whilst I had no problem understanding the teacher, and even better when he was speaking Swiss German ... so realised I probably didn't need the course as much as I thought I did ....
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Old 15.08.2011, 15:28
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

De Pimapnellen bald isch krisch.

ach neee. Su stellst Disch och immer so aan.



Maach et, oder loss et sinn. Un hör op zu kühme...

Seriously: The Standard German language was established to make it easier to communicate. And the idea works fairly well. If people turn away from you and don't care if you can follow them or not - the problem might lay somewhere else than the language skills.

And on the dialect courses: I am a German native speakers and had serious challenges to follow any more complicated social discussion in the Bernese dialect. Even after working there for two years. I don't think it's feasible without Standard German knowledge unless you have some complete immersion through family or similar.
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Old 15.08.2011, 15:34
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Time, take it.

You don't need to be in the middle of conversation, just lay back and let it flow around you. That way you have no pressure, which often leads to blockage, to perform. Just tune in to the sounds and body language. Communication is maybe 20% the words and 80% body language, and a kind of direct transmission.
I second this.

I can't imagine what it would be for me to actually live in a place that funtions on two langauges, apart from having to definitely learn a new, foreign one, then the completely different spoken version of it..But on the other hand German is an Anglosaxon language so it can't be so difficult for all you Anglophones, n'est pas?

Back to you title, though. Isolation, I am not sure. On one hand it is natural. Conversing is a great way to learn, but realize that not all locals are to be expected to put up with butchered version of their language and ever so repeating topics, attitudes of newcomers trying to make a polite smalltalk, with a various degree of success. Don't expect from complete strangers, albeit in a social setting like weddings, to include you at all times. Just chill, pay some conversation classes or make an effort to socialize with people who aren't strangers, since they are a lot more likely to help you learn. My colleagues have been the best helpers, sometimes it is hardcore, but I don't mind that phase of slight exclusion sometimes, it gives me some break and opportunity just get the intonation, listen to the prosody, the flow...(while I knit my hb a bison yarn hat, or socks for my kiddo, which is the ultimate talk opener. Just carry an interesting looking book or other talking piece, and you see people will talk).
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Old 15.08.2011, 15:50
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

I am learning German from my teacher and getting my dialect from my wife and other social events. A couple of years ago I could not not follow most of what was said. Now I can, even if I am not able to reply quickly. In a couple more years I hope it will be within my ability to fully engage socially. Till then I just have to accept it and be happy with steady progress. I do not expect people to speak English with me and cannot see how anyone can come to a country and expect to be able to speak as if at "home" if the primary languages are different.
As I intend living here for "forever" I see it as it being up to me to make the effort. The more one experiences the better one will become.
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Old 15.08.2011, 22:43
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

I've noticed that when the native English speakers around me speak Hochdeutsch but with the sort of stresses and singsong pronunciation of Swiss-German, the Swiss people they're speaking with seem pretty comfortable with it and keep the conversation going. They're also using the rolled, palatal "R" instead of the back-in-the-throat one. Anyway, I'm considering doing that myself rather than resorting to snooty-sounding Hochdeutsch or using my crappy, very limited Swiss-German.

It kinda reminds me of living in the Southern US, where I just moved from. After years of trying to blend in and not sound like a damn Yankee (= Northerner), I had to face the fact that lots of people I talked to just hadn't been exposed to people outside the area they came from. People you'd meet at a wedding in Eastern Switzerland sound like counterparts of the people I used to overhear in the grocery checkout line who knew each other from church or whatever. It's not really a language thing - there is no language you could have addressed them in that would have made them include you in their conversation for any length of time.

Don't know if that really helps, but it seems that you're in really good company in your situation - if not right there at the wedding, then at least in Zurich or Geneva or Atlanta or Podunk
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Old 15.08.2011, 22:52
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Ask a Swiss German to spend 2 hours, on a weekly basis for ex., go sightseeing with you in town, eat and drink something together and you do all the talking in Swiss German, mercilessly or with very very little translation in English.

It is practical, fast, frustrating and yet you'll most likely remember expressions, places, things in Swiss German more easily.
Until I had a girlfriend who ONLY spoke Italian, my Italian was marginal at best (I got by nearly 20 years with English and French), now it's probably better than my French (which is almost as good as my English)

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Old 15.08.2011, 22:52
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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I'm still not sure why you groaned.
thats why i groaned

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I went to a wedding yesterday in Eastern Switzerland and it was TOO LONG (10-12 hours...not sure because we left early, risking the displeasure of those who invited us, but I really don't care about that, if they aren't reasonable people they aren't my friends or people I would like to associate with anyway, but that is another story)...
why the heck you went there? id never go to weddings of people i dont know, eat their dinner and diss them about their bloody long wedding. thats rude!

grammar is overrated? ok, skip it and see how far you´ll get with your swiss german
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Old 15.08.2011, 23:14
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

And that is debatable

Cheers,
Nick

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(which is almost as good as my English)
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Old 16.08.2011, 01:17
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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The other people at the EF are in much better positions to give advice to the OP, so I will ask a question instead. Is there a better way for to teach local Swiss-German dialect to non-standard-German speakers, or is it like learning your multiplication tables? As a kid, I didn't like the fact that to learn to multiply there was no other way to do it than to memorize a huge table of data (6 * 3 =18; 7 * 4 = 28) but as an adult I realize there is no other way. Is there no other way to learn Swiss-German except to learn standard German first and ONLY then take lessons in Swiss-German?
You have to realize that every note on a sheet of paper, that every very small message, that every instruction is written in Standard German and NOT in dialect. So much for this aspect. Further on realize that the language structure of all the dialects between Kiel and Göschenen is the same, but that words and expressions even between the various CH dialects differ. Sure, Swiss German does NOT have the IMPERFEKT (simple past) but people in southern Baden-Württemberg when using the IMPERFEKT sound as if they just had swallowed a rat still half alive ! Swiss-German dialects ages ago replaced the Genitive with a kind of "Dative-construction" but so did folks in B-W and Bavaria, possibly not in theory but in practice. To give a practical example, in Standard-G. you can say "im westlichen Teil des Mittelmeers" (real genitive) while it in the Alemannic and Bavarian dialects is "im weschtliche Teil VOM Mittelmeer".

A German linguist even wrote a book "Der Dativ ist des Genitivs Tod"

Last edited by Wollishofener; 16.08.2011 at 01:41.
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Old 16.08.2011, 01:20
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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There is a standard written language used in Switzerland but it is a Swiss form of High German not an attempt to put Swiss German dialect into a written form
Quote "Swiss Standard German is the official written language in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It is used in books, all official publications (including all laws and regulations), in newspapers, printed notices, most advertising and in other printed matter. Authors write literature in Swiss Standard German, although some specific dialect literature exists. SSG is similar in most respects to the Standard German in Germany and Austria, although there are a few differences in spelling, most notably the replacing of the German ligature ß with ss and in some cases different words are used."
Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Swiss Standard German is to high German as American English is to British English. It's basically the same language as British English, but there are notable spelling differences. (e.g. aeroplane/airplane; honour/honor; theatre/theater; defence/defense; etc.)
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Old 16.08.2011, 01:30
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Most people who set out to learn Swiss German will either already read/write some standard German, or aspire to read/write it eventually (who wants to be an illiterate?) so that's the obvious language pair for writing textbooks, teaching materials etc. There are a few English-to-Swiss-German resources but the demand just isn't there.

It depends on what you mean by "way" though. Somebody who's good at learning new words aurally can listen to lots of Swiss radio, watch lots of TV, talk to lots of people, and pick up everything he needs to know that way. If you're like me and need to see a new word to remember it, you'll be struggling. There are a few places you can see the language written: textbooks - they're mostly in German, but even if you can't read the explanation the examples are still helpful - a few newspaper columns and the Blick am Abend "Schatzchaeschtli" (a column that prints selected SMS shoutouts to loved ones or missed connections.)

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Swiss German isn't, as some on this thread have suggested, an unwritten language. Rather, it's a language with a written standard and a bunch of spoken dialects. Call this written standard "Schriftdeutsch" instead of "Hochdeutsch" if it makes you feel better.

In this regard it's no different from lots of other languages, including English. Dialect forms are occasionally written down in their full variant glory (ever read any Mark Twain?) but generally we stick to a written standard. So do the Swiss. We mightn't like to be asked to speak strictly according to that standard for any length of time though, and neither do the Swiss.

Go on, as an American you probably know someone who does a pretty tolerable British accent, or an Irish accent, or a George Bush impersonation. Ask them to keep it up for a whole evening, though, or to talk that way every time a particular mutual friend is at the table. Hard work, right? You can see why they might lapse back into speaking normally after a while. That's more or less what speaking High German is like for a Swiss person.

(For Brits on this thread, imagine trying to speak strict RP for a whole evening - just for example. If you haven't been schooled to speak that way normally, it's almost impossible.)

"Schriftdeutsch" is Standard German and NOT Swiss-German (Schwizertüütsch). And sure, dialect speakers in any language, even if being well up with the standard language, inevitably at times will lapse back into dialect if there is a single person around with the same "predicament". But if none of that kind is around, I think it is easy to keep up. Not least if the Standard language has been your forte between age 9 and age 21 throughout schooltime

Last edited by Wollishofener; 16.08.2011 at 01:51.
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