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Old 18.08.2011, 11:43
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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I have Chinese friends and speak very mediocre Mandarin, I was invited to a wedding in Yunnan and it took 3 days! Even though I sometimes had to drive around for hours and hours in a cramped car so the couple could take hundreds of pictures in different locations it was still fun after all, and in slightly more tiring moments I told myself that it isn't about me, but the couple that marries.
So no, I don't know where you're coming from...
If you choose to do that, that's fine.

My general rule is that I try to treat others how I would want to be treated. I would give a proper warning to the situation and let them make up their own mind. I would not think it reasonable even for my own wedding. That's me. I see nothing wrong with extending and invitation (with full knowledge of the situation) but giving people a chance to opt out. I would not take offense to this at all. While my wedding day is about "my bride and myself" I want guest to be comfortable.

The issue is not they were rude or thoughtless, it is more like no one even thought to mention how long the wedding would be, because they assumed that this was also normal in America (and my girlfriend simply forgot the difference). I did stay there almost the entire time with no complaints trying to make the best of it, which is more than most people I know would do.

Also if people want to come to show respect and give good wishes but leave a bit early, I don't see any problem with this either. It would not offend me at all. I can't think of anyone I am close to who would be offended. I would be happy they came at all, and thought enough of me to congradulate me on my wedding day. That's how I think though...I'm not such a formal structured person with things like this.


I guess these are cultural differences. We are just more flexible then this where I come from (well the majority of people).



Like I said that is beside the point. The point is not what language was spoken at the wedding, but my want to communicate with those who attended and the most efficient way to be able to do so in the future (or start learning to do so).

BTW...was the wedding you went to in Hunnan ethnic minorities? I've been to a Han Chinese wedding and it definately didn't even take 1 day, let alone 3, but these folks were from Shanghai.

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Old 18.08.2011, 11:58
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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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.
Being Dutch, I don't think there are many people who agree with this.
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  #83  
Old 18.08.2011, 12:40
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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my want to communicate with those who attended and the most efficient way to be able to do so in the future (or start learning to do so).
1) Keep learning more German. If you are mostly a visual learner, then stick to Hochdeutsch as that correlates best with the written German you see around you. If you are a good aural learner (I'm hopeless) then learn whatever dialect you hear around you. Doesn't matter. The more fluent you are in any variety of German, the better shot you have at understanding the others.

2) If you know enough German to read a newspaper, all you really need is to make the connection between written (standard) and spoken words. You've done this for High German already, now do it for Swiss German. Try to manouver yourself into situations where people are speaking dialect but with written (standard) language as visual support. Could be TV with subtitles (German subtitles, not English), could be work meetings, church gatherings, children's book club - anywhere where someone's reading aloud or speaking with subtitles.

Don't worry about understanding it for now, either the speech or the subtitles. The point is to internalize the relationship between them. You hear a word spoken in dialect, see the same word written in its standard spelling, connect them in your mind as being the same word.

You'll be surprised how quickly you pick up the basic patterns this way: "ei" becomes "ii", "au" becomes "uu", "k" becomes "ch" etc. etc. Handful of pronouns and common verbs on top of those (e.g. mir hend for wir haben) and a measly few dozen hours of practice with it all and you're good to go.

Sure there's more to it than that - grammar differences, regional vocab - but that right there is enough to get you off and chattering in time for the next Swiss wedding.
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  #84  
Old 18.08.2011, 21:44
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

I have to disagree with statements that learning "hoch Deutsch"is useless, but that is based on my personal experience.

I just arrived in Switzerland and have learned German in the past simply by speaking it when I had a chance to practice it.
Now I am new to Switzerland and I find I can understand the Swiss German without much trouble. I need to focus a little more but I can participate in conversations due to having a decent level of German knowledge. Speaking Swiss German is another thing which hopefully will come over time.
But I find with a good knowledge of German you are not isolated and it is perfectly accepted you chime in with hoch Deutsch while the rest continues plaudering in Swiss German. This has held true in both work and social situations sofar.

Everyone learns in a different way and has a different aptitude for languages. But saying learning regular German is pointless is simply not true from my point of view. It has helped me quite a lot.
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Old 19.08.2011, 01:58
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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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.
Ironically, the reason you cited for the Swiss not standardizing one of the Swiss-German dialects and keeping standard German as an official language is often used to encourage people (like the Swiss) to learn English as a foreign language.
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Old 19.08.2011, 08:12
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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The issue is not they were rude or thoughtless, it is more like no one even thought to mention how long the wedding would be, because they assumed that this was also normal in America (and my girlfriend simply forgot the difference).
No. They assumed it is normal in Switzerland. Which it is. Which is where the wedding took place. I seriously doubt they even considered how long a wedding would be in America - after all, why should they?

You are not living in America any more. We do things differently here. It is your job to inform yourself about our customs and practises and adapt yourself where necessary.
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Old 19.08.2011, 08:30
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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No. They assumed it is normal in Switzerland. Which it is. Which is where the wedding took place. I seriously doubt they even considered how long a wedding would be in America - after all, why should they?

You are not living in America any more. We do things differently here. It is your job to inform yourself about our customs and practises and adapt yourself where necessary.
Quite so, which is why I cited my example in China. Sometimes they told me what the plan is for the day, mostly I just tagged along, which was absolutely fine. No offense Agwv but you aren't the center of attention at someone elses wedding so try to be a bit less of a drama queen.
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Old 19.08.2011, 08:37
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

My memories of going to a full Catholic wedding in the UK are mainly being desperate for the loo for most of it - blimey, that ceremony goes on FOREVER!

I've been to a fair few weddings here and in the UK and the length of wedding seems to be about the same and follow the same format - meet for the church service at around 1 or 2 in the afternoon, then the apéro in Switzerland for a couple of hours or the posh wedding breakfast in the UK then the evening disco/buffet/party to which all the extended friends and work colleagues are invited.

Both types of weddings go on into the wee small hours, as far as I recall.

Even in my early days in Switzerland when I was crap with the language, I would never have used the term "social isolation" at a wedding I had been invited to. Is it me or does that sound like some kind of weird experiment on monkeys?
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Old 19.08.2011, 09:24
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Quite so, which is why I cited my example in China. Sometimes they told me what the plan is for the day, mostly I just tagged along, which was absolutely fine. No offense Agwv but you aren't the center of attention at someone elses wedding so try to be a bit less of a drama queen.
I was not trying to be the center of attention, and in fact was not, and did not want to be. I simply left earlier. There is nothing dramatic about it.

I believe the party went on fine without me, as it should. I was one person out of about 50.

Sorry, but if I know you personally and invite you and I know your language ability, I might say something to you first. That's me. I do think about these things, I never thought it bizarre to do so.

Especially if you are primarily invited due to your partner, you would think your partner would mention something, even if the host did not in fact the host probably would not, but your partner who is from that country, who lives with you, who knows you, likely would say something, as a bit of a warning. I WOULD. I can't speak for what you were at a Chinese wedding, but I would not take my Swiss partner to a 3 day event in a language she can't undertand at all and expect her to just deal with it with no warning. That's a bit crazy to me. That's not how I treat people. I would just tell her the situation and give her a choice to come with me or not.

In fact I have done this before with friends in America (I had a lot of foreign friends, from Asia, with varying language abilities).

Maybe you don't think that way, but I do, and that is how I would treat others.

To each his own. I just wont'be attending any more Swiss weddings. It won't hurt me or anyone else.

I don't care how long Swiss weddings are. I don't care how Swiss do things. They are free to do whatever they like however they like. It is their culture and their country.

YOu seem to think it is unreasonable for someone to act in any other way but to smile really big and accept it as it is.

I guess that is a general Swiss atititude. Sorry, that is not mine. You shoudl also accept everyone does not think as you do, but then again you likely never thought about that as you don't exactly live in a diverse country.
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Old 19.08.2011, 09:34
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Is it me or does that sound like some kind of weird experiment on monkeys?
Is it me or is it funny that "baboon" thanked this post?
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  #91  
Old 19.08.2011, 09:34
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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No. They assumed it is normal in Switzerland. Which it is. Which is where the wedding took place. I seriously doubt they even considered how long a wedding would be in America - after all, why should they?

You are not living in America any more. We do things differently here. It is your job to inform yourself about our customs and practises and adapt yourself where necessary.
As I have already said (and am now going to repeat for you) I was invited primarily because my partner is friends with these people (I know them too) but she has known them longer. She has been to an American wedding as she has lived in America. So she knows the difference, she also knows me.

I agree people should adapt when they can, but adaptation is including a lot of things.


If you expect a Swiss person or a foreigner who speaks the language being spoken to sit some place and make the best of things for 12 hours, that's one thing.

If you expect a foreigner who can't communicate well or at all with most people to do the same, THAT IS QUITE A HIGHER EXPECTATION.


When you move to any nation, there are many things you dó not know.

Are you telling me that if your wife or husband was American and you lived in America and were did a 2 or 3 day wedding in a foreign language they know you don't speak, but they know from experience in your country weddings are much shorter that they have no need to mention that?

Really?

Maybe that is how your relationshiip works, I don't treat folks like that I'm involved with. I think a little bit more about the other person than that, sorry. As I said my general rule is to treat people how I would want to be treated.
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Old 19.08.2011, 09:42
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

You post a thread on a forum basically saying you were somehow disgruntled that fellow wedding guests at a wedding in Schaffhausen were all speaking Swiss German and not making any allowances for you being a foreigner only speaking standard German.

You also seem surprised that some cultures have wedding celebrations that last longer than they do in the US.

You seem pissed off with your girlfriend for not sharing any of this information with you.

Have you confronted your girlfriend with any of this? Did you forewarn your girlfriend about the cultural differences when you took her to the American weddings? Did she get into a girly huff because of it?

I don't think anyone here is bothered whether it is a case of smiling and getting on with the Swiss culture, I think it is more of a case of man up and stop dwelling on the small stuff.

How was the food? Entertainment? How did the bride look?

Come on... Social isolation?
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Old 19.08.2011, 09:48
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

Since you mention about China, I always like to relate Swiss German-High German relationship like Cantonese in HongKong with standard Mandarin in China. A Mandarin speaker in HK will (or at least I would) not expect the HongKonger to speak to me in Mandarin. And I notice, pardon me if I am wrong, that somehow Chinese speaker can better accept the fact that HK is a Cantonese-speaking area than High German speakers thinking it is normal for people to speak Swiss German in Switzerland. I really can't stand the kind of superior thinking that High German is "purer" than Swiss German. Anyway that is another issue. Back to your problem, I feel a proper Chinese basic is important if you want to learn Cantonese. It is just like you need High German before one should attempt Swiss German. I know it is frustrating as nobody arounds you seem to speak the language. But to read 20-minuten newspaper, letters from the town council etc, you will need High German. A better (or easier in my opinion) option would be learn High German in Germany first then come to Switzerland you will learn Swiss German very fast....trust me.
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Old 19.08.2011, 10:03
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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You post a thread on a forum basically saying you were somehow disgruntled that fellow wedding guests at a wedding in Schaffhausen were all speaking Swiss German and not making any allowances for you being a foreigner only speaking standard German.
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You also seem surprised that some cultures have wedding celebrations that last longer than they do in the US.

You seem pissed off with your girlfriend for not sharing any of this information with you.

Have you confronted your girlfriend with any of this? Did you forewarn your girlfriend about the cultural differences when you took her to the American weddings? Did she get into a girly huff because of it?

I don't think anyone here is bothered whether it is a case of smiling and getting on with the Swiss culture, I think it is more of a case of man up and stop dwelling on the small stuff.

How was the food? Entertainment? How did the bride look?

Come on... Social isolation?


No other posters want to make a big deal out of the wedding, if you see my initial post, I had a line about that, and went on into language.


1) My girlfriend has apologized. All forgiven no big deal. She tried to get all "huffy and puffy" until I reminded her how I treated her the time we were in China (and she could understand nothing and I basically had to "hold her hand" the entire time). She quickly changed her attitude.

2) I don't care if the Swiss German wedding is longer. I was somewhat surprised, but I was not angry about that. That's their tradition, no problem. I just wanted to be aware of that so I could make my own choice about attendance (I would not have gone if I knew it was that long, hell I don't typically go to weddings in America to be honest, but the issue is not the length, but the length + inability to communicate for so long. 4 hours, no problem, 6 hours, still no problem 12? That's pushing it with me).
3) Yes I do believe that the speaking of Swiss German in "mixed company" does make for social isolation.


If you are learning German. Where is it easier to communicate with a group of people. Bonn (where probably 85% of your German text book is the same as on the street) or St Gallen (where it is more like 10% is the same as what you hear)?

You can't ignore that is an issue. It is like learning English in Jamaican or the High Lands of Scotland. Learning French in Haiti.

I personally find it rude to speak dialect when you know (and they did know) that I cannot understand Swiss German. Obviously High German is easier.

Swiss do not find this rude. Okay, so that's the way it is.

4) SO since Swiss people (at least in groups in certain areas) are indifferent to outsiders, the point of the post was to try to figure out how to better learn Swiss German.

Because as far as I can see learning High German has limited application in Switzerland since no one ever really wants to speak it or use it, other than as a written language.


I do want to try to adjust and communicate (something that seems to be lost on most people on this board, although I keep saying it), but I find that the current situation is not efficient.

This is what I said in my first post.

This is not about a wedding; some users want to make it about that, or me being American, whatever.

It is not, it is about ANY SOCIAL SITUATION like this in Switzerland, and how to better communicate with Swiss people.

Basically my opinion is that foreigners basically have to learn two languages.

They have to learn to read/write and speak High German and at least understand Swiss German.

Which is far harder than you having to learn English in Washington D.C.

Or you just learn enough High German to get by, mostly focus on reading and writing, and avoid Swiss people, associate yourself more with foreigners. A lot of foreigners I have met here have no Swiss friends (who cannot speak English/French, etc) because they find the situation too difficult.

5) So far what I have got from this post is that it is possible to learn Swiss German without HIgh German, but ill advised, and probably it is better to just learn really good HIgh GErman, learn Swiss German as it comes, and just keep trying.

Oh and just accept anything and everything that happens to you and never ever ever question anything that happens in Switzerland because you are a foreigner. LOL
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Old 19.08.2011, 10:17
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Since you mention about China, I always like to relate Swiss German-High German relationship like Cantonese in HongKong with standard Mandarin in China. A Mandarin speaker in HK will (or at least I would) not expect the HongKonger to speak to me in Mandarin. And I notice, pardon me if I am wrong, that somehow Chinese speaker can better accept the fact that HK is a Cantonese-speaking area than High German speakers thinking it is normal for people to speak Swiss German in Switzerland. I really can't stand the kind of superior thinking that High German is "purer" than Swiss German. Anyway that is another issue. Back to your problem, I feel a proper Chinese basic is important if you want to learn Cantonese. It is just like you need High German before one should attempt Swiss German. I know it is frustrating as nobody arounds you seem to speak the language. But to read 20-minuten newspaper, letters from the town council etc, you will need High German. A better (or easier in my opinion) option would be learn High German in Germany first then come to Switzerland you will learn Swiss German very fast....trust me.

I get your analogy, but it's somewhat wrong. HK was not apart of China until recently, everything was always taught in English and Cantonese. They even standardized Cantonese writing in Hong Kong during British rule.

So no, most people in HK don't speak Mandarin at all, can't understand it, and don't want to. Most people in Mainland China, outside of the area adjacent to Hong Kong (Guangdong) can't understand Cantonese, don't want to, see it as a dialect, and don't care about it.

Hong Kong is still under the one country – two systems rules, so many don’t yet see the areas as “really the same”.

What you are talking about is more similar to someone in Shanghai or Guangdong who learns to read and write (and speak) Mandarin in school, but goes home and speaks their local dialect, and never speaks Mandarin.

This is where you are wrong.

The Chinese govenrment tries very hard to limit the speaking of dialect in public, on tv, radio, etc. They actually discourage the speaking of dialect. Singapore had a similar program of "speak Mandarin, not dialect", because most people there spoke Fujianese (Fukkaniese) because that is where their ancestors came from in China. The official language used in school is English (and maybe Mandarin/Tamil/Malay depending on ethncity), but the government wants people to learn Mandarin to do more business with Mainland China/Taiwan, etc. So their attitude is similar to Mainland China, if not more extreme. SPEAK ENGLISH AND MANDARIN, not dialect.


You can read more about this here:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2008060,00.html
http://www.sccybsc.com/en/background.asp


As far as being "pure" to be High German or Swiss German.

I don't have this attitude. I don't care if Swiss people want to speak Swiss German to be honest.

If you ask me what is best for foreigners, it is that Swiss people speak Swiss German to each other, but in mixed company they speak High German, because that is what most foreigners learn and what everyone should be able to understand as a minimum.

That is not the Swiss atittude, so the purpose of this post was how to get on a fast track to learn Swiss GErman, since High GErman has serious limitations.

Obviously the Swiss government and Bern would be voted out of office if they took the same attitude as Beijing toward dialect. Can you imagine the government in Bern saying "Speak High GErman, not dialect. Do not use dialect on tv and radio. Don't be 'backward', speak High German"

It would cause riots.
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Old 19.08.2011, 10:19
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

In short, poor girlfriend.
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Old 19.08.2011, 10:42
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Because as far as I can see learning High German has limited application in Switzerland since no one ever really wants to speak it or use it, other than as a written language.
...unless of course you ever want to read a newspaper or magazine or Swiss internet site or road sign or voting papers or letter from the authorities, the list goes on.

Yes, I was mildly annoyed in the early days because everyone was speaking dialect and I was knocking myself senseless learning a language that nobody actively spoke unless forced.

You will find that anywhere, though. Even with German, if you learn German in a nice cuddly language school then go and live in the middle of Munich, for example, the language is exactly the same but the accent is an absolute (delightful) nightmare.

Or Austria! For me, speaking to an Austrian it is like someone speaking German with a comedy Welsh accent and my ear just cannot tune into it.

The Swiss are not closing you out. You said yourself you went as the "plus one" guest - nobody knew you, nobody had a connection to you apart from through your girlfriend. It's hard work to strike up a conversation with someone you don't know from Adam, with whom you have to struggle along with in a language you don't normally speak anyway with someone that barely speaks it. I think even I would be hard pressed to spend more than 5 minutes dragging it along and would make my excuses and go back to my friends as soon as it got to the nodding and uncomfortable grinning stage.

It's harsh but I don't think the Swiss are any different to any other culture in that respect.
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Old 19.08.2011, 11:01
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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Basically my opinion is that foreigners basically have to learn two languages.

They have to learn to read/write and speak High German and at least understand Swiss German.

Which is far harder than you having to learn English in Washington D.C.
They're not two languages though - any more than (to use your own example) British Received Pronunciation and some remote Scottish dialect are two languages.

A strong accent does not a language make.
Regional vocabulary does not a language make.
Even slightly different grammar does not a language make.

Swiss German and High German are both German, just as Brummie or Geordie English and standard British English spoken in purest RP are both English.

Don't know how I can make this any clearer. Yes, accents and dialects undeniably make life more difficult for the learner - and more so where the regional accent is a heavy one (instead of DC, now imagine learning English in Joisey or Alabama!) - but that's not the same as "having to learn two languages."

You'd be facing exactly the same problem if you'd moved to southern Germany, by the way. There are lots of German dialects of German. Like the Swiss, they all write in standard German and speak either in their own dialect or (when required) in standard German. Again, this is normal behavior in any language with a written standard plus a bunch of dialects. The Germans do it, the Italians do it, the English do it. You probably do it yourself (if your regional accent is strong enough to be worth bothering about) without even realizing it.


I don't know where you are getting this idea that spoken Swiss German is only 10% similar to its written form. I acknowledge it sounds that way at first - in fact it sounds like an unbroken wall of sound at first! But that's just the first step in learning any language.
wall of noise -> identifiable words here and there -> vaguely comprehensible blether > mostly comprehensible blether -> 99% comprehensible, 60% so mundane you almost wish you hadn't bothered.

In the case of Swiss German, the differences are really superficial. In fact there are only a few transformation rules ("ei" sounds like feet instead of fight, "k" sounds like loch instead of lock, etc.) and once you take those into account it's 80-90% similar. There are still a few common words that just have to be learned (e.g. mir = wir) and a lot of obscure vocabulary (like Bettmümpfeli - a piece of candy given to children at bedtime (!)) but again, that stuff exists in all German dialects, not just Swiss ones.
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Old 19.08.2011, 11:06
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

Granted. However, even my husband (who is German) often had a problem understanding Swiss German, even on a one-to-one basis. So I can imagine that in a noisy social environment it would be even more difficult.
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Old 19.08.2011, 11:32
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Re: Social Isolation of Foreigners

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They're not two languages though - any more than (to use your own example) British Received Pronunciation and some remote Scottish dialect are two languages.
Agree with the rest. But different language or not isn't quite as binary, Swiss German could have evolved more in the direction Dutch has, which is now considered a different language. The main difference between Germany/Austria and Switzerland is that in the German dialects and standard German a gliding transition between the two is possible, whereas in Swiss German and (Swiss) standard German this isn't possible, you can only speak either of them. Hence the popular phrase that speaking German is like a foreign language for them, even if technically that is not true, but it feels that way, because you have to switch.
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