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Old 16.08.2013, 11:59
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School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

Are Primary/Secondary schools in Switzerland required to teach in high-German, or is it up to the region/school/teacher to decide if classes can be taught in Swiss-German?

I was of the understanding that in kindergarten the teachers spoke Swiss-German, but then starting 1st grade they were required to teach/speak in high-German. My son just started 5th grade and he said his new teacher speaks to them only in Swiss-German Since all his teachers taught to him only in high-German the last 4 years, he has gotten comfortable with that, and now has trouble understanding the dialect. He says he asks the teacher after class (in high-German) to repeat/clarify some things he didn't understand in class, but she answers back to him in dialect again, and it's still not clear to him.

I guess my son should improve his Swiss-German, but on the other hand, if teachers are required to teach in high-German and this is impeding his education, then perhaps I should speak with the teacher?
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Old 16.08.2013, 16:06
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

The school language is supposed to be High German as far as I understand, their may be subjects where some dialect is used i.e. music, when they sing folk songs and such. It may depend on the canton though. You could send a note to the teacher to let her know about the issue, and if you don't get a satisfactory answer, ask the principal?

Just saw that you are in Berne. So are we. It is supposed to be High German.
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Old 16.08.2013, 16:56
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

High German. Make an appointment and phrase something including the word "surprised" in it. Remember: always ask to explain what doesn't seem to make sense to you (in your case, the surprising switch to dialect after four years of teaching in Bern in High German). Do not make reproaches or blame for anything. Just question the rational of their actions until they shoot themselves in the foot and you unmask them that way. Never ever put yourself into the position of having to justify yourself. Let them do the explaining... you'll see if it stands or not.

That being said, the accent of that teacher might be so heavy in High German that your son thought it's dialect. I know people like that. Hence the need to be very careful at first until you really are sure the teacher speaks dialect only on purpose.
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Old 16.08.2013, 16:57
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

I would make a verbal complaint to the school, and if that doesn't work a written complaint.
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Old 16.08.2013, 16:59
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

Of course, knowing the way some Swiss speak High German, it might just be that this teacher is not actually speaking Swiss German dialect at all but her version of High German.

Edit later: Sorry Faltrad - Somehow I missed reading the last part of your post.

Last edited by Longbyt; 17.08.2013 at 11:03.
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Old 17.08.2013, 10:12
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

I wasn't just being facetious in my post.
There was likely more than a grain of truth in it when Emil Steinberger said that when he did his act in Germany, the Germans thought he was speaking Swiss Dialect and he thought he was speaking High German.
I've been to quite a few lectures in Zürich given by University Professors in German and there is a world of difference between the sound of those given by Germans and those given by Swiss.
I'd certainly try to check it out before I went all guns blazing with a complaint to the teacher or to the school (especially as I hate being caught on the wrong foot! )
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Old 17.08.2013, 10:27
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

Absolutely likely, the english, irish, americans, scots, kiwis and aussies all speak english apparently.

They sound and use totally different words though

Maybe your son needs to stop complaining and learn how to understand what the teacher is saying
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Old 17.08.2013, 10:52
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

The teaching language in Bern is German. As others said, speak with the teacher about it. It's fairly possible that the kindergarten teacher was from anothe canton with another accent that the actual teacher.
There's no need to call in the head master.
But one thing is puzzling me. Why doesn't your son understand Swiss German? Weren't there any Swiss children in the Kindergarten he attended?
Normally Children understand dialect after a couple of months without any difficulties.
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Old 17.08.2013, 10:56
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

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I wasn't just being facetious in my post.
I second that in my post above yours about the same hypothesis. The case is not rare. For a German, especially non-alemanic, the accent of many Swiss speaking High German is too heavy to insure instant comfortable understanding.
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Old 17.08.2013, 11:56
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

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...
But one thing is puzzling me. Why doesn't your son understand Swiss German? Weren't there any Swiss children in the Kindergarten he attended?
Normally Children understand dialect after a couple of months without any difficulties.
That puzzles me also. My daughter came into Switzerland age 6, and didn't do any time in Kindergarten - went straight into school. While the teaching was (mostly) in High German, the kids still talk to each other in dialect, and so she's fluent in that as well. (My son who started at age 10, doesn't speak dialect, but understands it well enough).
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Old 17.08.2013, 12:12
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

Puzzling, but anything is possible with children. There are also students who "refuse" to relate to the dialect, even if I've only heard of it from German children from Germany who kind of reject the move of their family to Switzerland by blocking more or less consciously anything that has to do with dialect.
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Old 19.08.2013, 15:29
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

Thanks for all the replies, and for confirming that classes should be taught in high-German. My son wasn't "complaining" about the teacher speaking in Swiss-German, he was just having trouble understanding some of it. I haven't met his new teacher yet, maybe she comes from the mountains and has a very heavy dialect or something. His teacher in 3rd/4th grade spoke very-very clear high-German, and I guess he got used to that. His closest friends at school (and parents ) are foreigners and they speak in high-German, the TV he watches is in high-German, so as a result of multiple factors, he's just gotten more comfortable with high-German. He speaks Swiss-German when he can, especially to fit in, but sometimes struggles with it, and prefers high-German when given a choice.

In any case, I'll see the teacher next week at "elternabend" and just let her know that my son has a little trouble understanding her dialect sometimes, maybe my son isn't the only one having trouble (?). I do know the school director because my kids play with hers sometimes, but I don't think I'll escalate it beyond talking directly (and politely) with the teacher. On the flip side, I know how strict the Swiss are about following rules, and if the rule says "classes must be taught in high-German", then I find the non-compliance by some teachers to be in an ironic way "non-Swiss"
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Old 19.08.2013, 19:14
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

Well, my son came home with his music homework and the words used to describe rhythms where all written in Swiss German. Even a Swiss kid would have trouble explaining the difference between düssele and täsele...(personally I think the difference is in volume not so much rhythm). They were supposed to say the words (of about 12 different rhythm combinations) as they were clapping a line of 16th and eighth notes. My son had no chance, he got the clapping right, but all those strange words, yikes!
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Old 20.08.2013, 13:40
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

So, here's the thing. Swiss teachers are passionate, very very passionate about the use of Swiss German. And if you're going up against that, then you're setting yourself up for a lot of trouble. "Oh, I'll do it for my son! It's the best thing for him", I hear you say all boisterous and full of good intentions. But you're wrong. You're horribly wrong. Because the teachers have a very good reason for what they're doing. It has to do with generations, jobs and modern life.

Basically, there will come the day when your son will have to go look for a job. Presumably, he will do that in Switzerland. Well, most kids who go to school here will go to work here. Your son might be the exception, but that's of little importance to the teachers in this country.

Your son will have a job interview at some point. His school marks are good, he's a bright and nice young lad full of enthusiasm and the will to learn. Now guess what? His potential boss doesn't care, because he's got one of them "huere Usländer" (goddamn foreigners) in front of him. That's where the generation-clash comes in. Younger people don't really care all that much anymore as we're used to being around foreigners. But people in power aren't. There still are a lot of bosses who think you completely incompetent if you haven't served in the military. Although those people are dying out, they're still around for a few more years. The short version: Oldfashioned bosses (read: Most of the ones we have in this country) are far less likely to hire your son if he doesn't even speak the language. High-German is fine and dandy, but if he's not one of the "Giele" he's got no chance.

Teachers are all about chances. Teachers want your son to succeed. Teachers are on your side. And they know that Swiss German is an integral part of your son's future, whether he understands it right now or not. He will learn. He is young and smart and he learns more every day than we all have in months. So let him learn this language. Even if he never has to use it. And if he has to get a job and he knows how to pronounce and properly utilize "Auää", then he's got an edge.

So please don't go and try to make teachers speak German German. Let your son learn Swiss German. He can do it. You know it, I know it and he will only benefit from it in this country.

Source: My entire family is made up of teachers, I'm a journalist who has written about this debate and I've gone to school here.
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Old 20.08.2013, 13:43
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

French in my manor
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Old 20.08.2013, 16:41
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

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So please don't go and try to make teachers speak German German.
That's not the question. Cantonal education authorities make very clear that the language of instruction is (Swiss) High German. What about teachers complying to their own hierarchy? (Teacher speaking here).

The social value of mastering Swiss German dialect is still valid, but it's not the question. And never was ever.
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Old 20.08.2013, 17:48
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

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Cantonal education authorities...
I'm sorry if I didn't make that point clear: Teachers do not care about any kind of authority. Because, believe it or not, teachers are actually on the side of the children in their classes, not on the side of the Schulrat or the Gemeinde. In fact, most teachers are ready and willing to throw the glorious Lehrplan 21 (the state-decreed "this is what you must teach"-document) out the window if their class is better off afterwards.

So the correct answer can be "High German" all you like, it still won't change that teachers will continue to speak Swiss German because it's in the best interest of your child.
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Old 20.08.2013, 17:57
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

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I'm sorry if I didn't make that point clear: Teachers do not care about any kind of authority.
They (we)'d better care about education authority!! Because said authority cares deeply about them (us). A teacher teaching in dialect only will get into trouble. And rightly so. There is no "interest of the child" that has not been defined by the politics here. Individual delirium like yours are totally irrelevant. Your view of education is day-TV fiction, not the school system I work for. Totally different worlds.

For those who want to talk about real school, you should know that there is a large consensus for a mild approach to the language/dialect issue. But the schools have become very sensitive about the issue since the discussion about the level of students in High German is quite a hot topic in society in general. Schools monitor this much closer than in the 90ies but there is no language police either. If there are problems, there are dealt with internally and probably within the school without intervention of the education authorities and a solution will be found. But nobody ever meant to hear perfect Bühnendeutsch (classical theater standardized pronunciation) in Switzerland's schools. As long as it is a kind of High German, every body is happy.
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Last edited by Faltrad; 20.08.2013 at 18:11.
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Old 21.08.2013, 11:01
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

I met my son's teacher at elternabend last night, and she spoke in fairly clear high-Greman, and she seemed to be friendly/approachable as well. I didn't even bother talking to her about it, and instead told my son that if has trouble understanding something to ask her directly to repeat it in high-German. The teacher was kind of young, early or mid-20's, so I guess maybe she just gets lazy and drifts more into Swiss-German sometimes with the kids (?).

Next week I have elternaben for my younger kids 1st grade class. On the first day of school we sat in on the class for the first hours (all parents were invited to) and she was talking to the kids in a pretty heavy dialect. I was thinking maybe she was doing that just for the first day to make the kids comfortable who were coming in from kindergarten, but I wonder if she will continue to teach in dialect the rest of the year or if she will gradually change to high-German (?)
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Old 21.08.2013, 13:12
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Re: School Language: Swiss-German or High-German?

I was in a Swiss school for about a year and a half when I was 11. All the lessons were in High German. During lessons there would be general discussion between teacher and pupils about the topic. These were all conducted in Swiss German. When the lesson recommenced it was back to High German. At the end of the school day when discussing home work it was in Swiss German. I never was confused at all it is something you get used to especially at a young age.

I think it important to be able to speak Swiss german as when outdside school with peers they will speak Swiss German. Also in the work place he will need to speak Swiss German.
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