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Old 02.10.2011, 22:48
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What About Swiss People's High German?

I have read on this forum that the Swiss speak Swiss German of course, but what about when they are speaking High German? Is it unintelligible? Would a German think that a Swiss German's High German accent is not sounding good?
I want to live in Switzerland and learn high German, later I will try to also learn Swiss German, but I need to focus first on High German.

When I try to speak to the Swiss in High German, I know if they suspect I am an English speaker they will speak back to me in English, no worries there, but if I can coax them to have patience for my High German, would I be learning German with an atrocious accent? Swiss German is fine, it is Switzerland, they should be able to speak whatever dialect they want to speak, but can they indeed speak proper High German when need be? What percentage of the population of the German speaking region does this hold true for?

Thank-you.

Edited as requested Longbyt.

Last edited by Longbyt; 02.10.2011 at 22:57. Reason: By request.
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Old 02.10.2011, 22:55
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

Swiss people's High German is usually not bad at all. Particularities, yes, but every part of Germany has its particularities too. I would by far prefer to speak Swiss High German with Swiss accent than Saxon High German or what they make you believe is High German. By far.
My experience: When a Swiss speaks so bad High German that you don't understand, it's mostly because the Swiss does that on purpose, sometimes because it is really a person with little command of High German. But only sometimes, some rare times.
Don't worry, High German is fine here too.

Otherwise, just go to Engadin, the Romansh there speak High German with no difficulties. You'll learn Romansh later.
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Old 02.10.2011, 23:05
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

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I would by far prefer to speak Swiss High German with Swiss accent than Saxon High German or what they make you believe is High German. By far.
I'm curious...why would you rather speak Swiss High German than Saxon High German? I learnt German in school (Swiss teacher), in Hannover & Dusseldorf (both fairly accent-free) and Augsburg (which added some dialect and non-official pronounciation)...so is it that you simply prefer the sound of the Swiss High German?
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Old 02.10.2011, 23:06
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

Faltrad: That is great news to learn about this! Thank-you for your swift reply.

By the way, will you make an estimate on what percentages of the population can speak decent high German? Is it something about education? For example, maybe older people weren't required 40 years to learn High German, or someone that didn't study well, or they are older and haven't learned in along time?

What about by region? Is for example Schaffhausen or Basel having a higher percentage of the population having no troubles with High German and perhaps in a secluded valley far from the border with German the percentage that speaks High German with no trouble stats to get lower?
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Old 02.10.2011, 23:06
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

Swiss peoples high German varies hugely, from almost perfect to unintelligible.
I have seen interviews filmed in HG where sub titles were needed!
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Old 02.10.2011, 23:12
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

Hi Cavalier! If your biggest worry is having a neutral accent in German, go to Niedersachsen in Germany: people say this is the "purest" one. If you learn High German in Switzerland, people will of course notice that in your accent and because of some Switzerland-specific words, even in the written language.
As in every language, some people are better at doing accents than other ones, so you'll find some Swiss have a thick local accent while others don't. Here I disagree with Faltrad: I don't think people do it on purpose - it's just that for some, taking on a rather foreign high German accent is hard work. Generally, I've noticed that people with a higher education tend to be better at speaking high German, because they had to at university.
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Old 02.10.2011, 23:27
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

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Hi Cavalier! If your biggest worry is having a neutral accent in German....

.....Generally, I've noticed that people with a higher education tend to be better at speaking high German, because they had to at university.
Hello Cuppa! Actually, I just want to live in Switzerland and learn High German so that I can communicate with my coworkers and friends from Germany. If I have a Swiss Accent when I speak to them, no worries, as I think the most important thing is that we can communicate with each other, that is all. They have their own dialect as most of them are from Cologne.

As for higher education and high German, that makes sense.
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Old 03.10.2011, 06:44
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

Most Swiss people's High German is fine. It does have an accent but infinitely less noticeable then a lot of Swiss people's accented English.
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Old 03.10.2011, 08:18
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

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Most Swiss people's High German is fine. It does have an accent but infinitely less noticeable then a lot of Swiss people's accented English.
Really? Given that many a German (as in: made in Germany) movie uses a very strong Swiss accent with otherwise standard German grammar for comic effect, I would have thought that it is very noticeable. That said, a slight Swiss accent, where a German knows that the speaker is from Switzerland but not to the extent that the German would fall over laughing is probably a good thing to have. It exudes the solidity and quality Germans associate with Swiss watches, Swiss chocolate, Swiss banks and Swiss ski resorts.

Just to give you a taste:
Emil Steinberger (Swiss comedian) on Swiss TV speaking Swiss German, presenter speaks Swiss German
Emil Steinberger speaks with a Swiss accent but in High German
Otto Waalkes (German comedian) on Ausrtian TV, speaking a slightly northern German accented standard German, presenter and off-voice speak Austrian-accented standard German.

Last edited by tom tulpe; 03.10.2011 at 08:36. Reason: no matter what Swiss TV think, "der Moderator" is a presenter, not a moderator
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Old 03.10.2011, 08:32
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

From what I hear, most Swiss German's Hochdeutsch is pretty patchy. They still maintain the sing-a-long style Swiss German tone and very few can disguise their Swiss origins simply because of their intonation.

I'd say I only know a handful of my Swiss German friends and family that can speak Hochdeutsch without revealing their true native tongue. For my part, I consider Hochdeutsch to be another language that I really have to think about before opening my mouth.
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Old 03.10.2011, 08:40
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

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Most Swiss people's High German is fine. It does have an accent but infinitely less noticeable then a lot of Swiss people's accented English.
It may be infinitely less noticeable to someone whose primary language is not German, but it is VERY noticeable to native High German speakers. I am a native English speaker whose High German is very good and am honestly more familiar with the German than the Swiss culture at this point. There is enormous (often unstated) conflict between the Swiss and the Germans, with the language as a backdrop. Educated Germans pride themselves on speaking pristine Hochdeutsch. Dialect speakers are seen, rather unfairly perhaps, as being less educated -- or "cute" -- and this way of thinking permeates their experiences here as well. I realize that this paragraph is painting with a broad brush, but I have been told this by so many Germans and Swiss, both sides confiding in me as a neutral third party. I've met Germans here who do not want their children in Swiss schools because of the influence of the dialect, and I've met Swiss who can't stand Germans because of their "arrogance" about the language. I am, in fact, a neutral third party and just absorb it all -- I actually prefer the sound of the Swiss dialects to Hochdeutsch, but I also see where the Germans are coming from as their education system focuses on speaking/writing absolutely perfect German.

Having said that, I do think that it would be a struggle to learn German in Switzerland. Now I know that there will be a bunch of replies saying "I was able to do it," and I think if you are extremely motivated -- and young -- you can learn it here. What I have seen from friends is that many Swiss will quickly speak English if you are struggling with German, with the result that they rarely get to practice. I have found (another generalization) that fewer Germans speak good English -- or they are more reluctant to speak it imperfectly -- so they will let you plow forward with your poor German as you are learning. Also, the German you will learn in class will not be the same German you hear on the street in Switzerland, making the learning curve much steeper.

So you need to decide if you want to live in Switzerland so much that you will deal with some significant obstacles to learning German. If your goal is to learn Hochdeutsch, it will go much faster in Germany. Ask your German friends what they think. I'm SURE they will have an opinion.

Last edited by Joy2; 03.10.2011 at 09:38.
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Old 03.10.2011, 09:24
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Re: What About Swiss Ppl's High German?

When I first arrived in the Spring, I spoke English because I was a bit uncertain about my German skills and few spoke anything but Swiss in return. Then, after making a few trips to Germany and realizing that my German wasn't the problem, I started speaking German and, voilá, folks would switch to English.

I suppose I could draw some conclusions due to the number of people who seem to have had a similar experience but I suspect that would be best left to the Swiss around here to offer up.

If you want to learn and speak German, go to Germany.
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Old 03.10.2011, 10:01
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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From what I hear, most Swiss German's Hochdeutsch is pretty patchy. They still maintain the sing-a-long style Swiss German tone and very few can disguise their Swiss origins simply because of their intonation.

I'd say I only know a handful of my Swiss German friends and family that can speak Hochdeutsch without revealing their true native tongue. For my part, I consider Hochdeutsch to be another language that I really have to think about before opening my mouth.
My husband learnt German in Switzerland and even though he does not speak swiss German, he sounds so Swiss when speaking German, it's horrible. The Swiss praise him for speaking German so well and when we are in Germany, people always assume he is Swiss...

I learnt German in Germany, and never get any compliments here . I must say that after some years in CH my German has become poisoned with Swiss dialect, but as soon as I am in Germany I am very happy to switch back and speak normally again. High German is so much nicer and more versatile than the Swiss version.
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Old 03.10.2011, 10:15
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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High German is so much nicer and more versatile than the Swiss version.
That's your opinion. Mine is the opposite, keep the dialects alive and let the culture live. Gahts eigentli no.....?
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Old 03.10.2011, 10:36
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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That's your opinion. Mine is the opposite, keep the dialects alive and let the culture live. Gahts eigentli no.....?
I think she referred to "Swiss Standard German", not "Swiss German". As you said in your earlier post, the former is as much a foreign language to most german-speaking Swiss as French or English, and (your words) the Swiss "really have to think about before opening [their] mouth. That makes for the perceived slowness of german-speaking Swiss when they speaking Standard German, and it also has the tendency to create the impression that they are not exactly the most versatile speakers around, and maybe even a bit limited. Listen to the same people when they speak Swiss German, and all of these issues disappear immediately

And while I know all about direct democracy and its benefits and the need to preserve Züritüütsch, making it illegal to speak Standard German in public Chindsgis in canton Zürich doesn't really help.
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Old 03.10.2011, 10:44
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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My husband learnt German in Switzerland and even though he does not speak swiss German, he sounds so Swiss when speaking German, it's horrible. The Swiss praise him for speaking German so well and when we are in Germany, people always assume he is Swiss...

I learnt German in Germany, and never get any compliments here . I must say that after some years in CH my German has become poisoned with Swiss dialect, but as soon as I am in Germany I am very happy to switch back and speak normally again. High German is so much nicer and more versatile than the Swiss version.
My finger hovered over the groan button. Do you realize that your choice of words is very offensive?
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Old 03.10.2011, 10:58
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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I learnt German in Germany, and never get any compliments here .
That's unfortunate. I have had many compliments from Swiss people on my German ... once they learn that I am not German .

Ohhh, I would hate to be in the middle of this rivalry.
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Old 03.10.2011, 11:37
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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My finger hovered over the groan button. Do you realize that your choice of words is very offensive?
Sorry I did not mean to offend anyone, maybe I should have added a But as I said, I learnt German in Germany, so for me that is the norm and that is what I feel comfortable with.

However as I work in an almost exclusively Swiss environment, I have gotten used to mixing in some Swiss words, which I think sounds rather silly but it will probably help me to eventually speak Swiss German and being able to separate the two languages.

But yes, (high) German will always have my preference, because it is spoken by >100 million people and will also be useful if I am looking for international jobs outside Switzerland.

Last edited by Wakey; 03.10.2011 at 11:51.
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Old 03.10.2011, 12:45
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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When I try to speak to the Swiss in High German, I know if they suspect I am an English speaker they will speak back to me in English, no worries there, but if I can coax them to have patience for my High German, would I be learning German with an atrocious accent? ...
You`d most likely have a swiss german accent when speaking standard german. It`s not atrocious though but very cute.
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Old 03.10.2011, 17:56
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Re: What About Swiss People's High German?

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I'd say I only know a handful of my Swiss German friends and family that can speak Hochdeutsch without revealing their true (...) tongue.
I don't know any Bavarian nor any Austrian that can speak Hochdeutsch without revealing their true origine. And that's NORMAL. Same with Swiss. Keep your accent, it's natural. It can still be perfectly correct High German. A fellow (very) Swiss teacher speaks dialect only to the cleaning ladies, otherwise I've never heard her speaking anything else than perfect High German... she however pronounces ob with a long /o:/, like "ohp" that's quite disturbing but still, she has the nicest High German south of the Neckar.

Swiss High German is perfectly fine. Local specificities are normal, and it's not any different in High German north of the Rhine (and of Schafhausen).

Frankly, one hears usually quite clearly when a German comes from Schleswig or an old Hamburg fellow. They also have their own High German sometimes.
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