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Old 25.01.2008, 20:22
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Resources for learning Swiss german [all dialects]

All right, this is a list of resources i.e. books, language software, classroom courses and so forth for learning Swiss german (Schweizerdeutsch, Schwiizertüütsch, Schwizertitsch). Of course, feel free to tell us about your experience with any of these materials or add resources that aren't already listed here.

This thread isn't the place to rehash whether it is better to learn high german (Hochdeutsch, Standarddeutsch) or Swiss german. For the purposes of this thread, we will assume that you have already made a conscious decision to study Swiss german. For the benefit of those who might have stumbled into the room accidentally though, let me briefly elaborate on the difference between the two languages. If you say that you are going to learn german, your intention is a bit ambiguous, as there are different varieties of german. In Germany and much of the german speaking world, 'german' would be interpreted to mean 'high german' (perhaps better described as 'standard german'). There are regional variations (dialects) in how german is spoken in Germany, but most or all of the dialects would be generally understood by a native speaker.

In Switzerland though we have a different situation. High german is used for writing and some official purposes (legislature, schools). Actually, it's Swiss standard german, but this is very similar to high german. However, what is usually spoken by most Swiss in day to day life (in the germanic speaking cantons) is Swiss german, which is quite a different thing. A native high german speaker e.g. someone from Germany would have considerable difficulty understanding Swiss german. Swiss, east of the röstigraben learn Swiss german as their mother tongue and then later learn Swiss standard german (high german) in school as a second language. Therefore, a Swiss can and usually will switch to high german for the benefit of those in the conversation that don't understand Swiss german. But a Swiss will consider high german to be a foreign language and much prefer to speak Swiss german. Just to make it a bit harder, you should know that there isn’t just one standardized Swiss german. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that there is a different dialect in each valley, certainly differences between cantons are readily apparent. Most Swiss will readily understand another Swiss speaking a different dialect of Swiss german, but it does result in occasional confusion. Not to mention that it is practically a national sport for the Swiss to poke some fun at how that person from [insert other canton] says that!. Or how hard it is to understand [insert dialect that is furthest from theirs]. In contrast to Germany or the UK, dialects in Switzerland do not infer a lower social or educational status, but are rather much cherished in Switzerland and are used in all walks of life.

The standard advice that is usually thrown about is to stick to high german. And for an expat who is here for a 1 or 2 year contract that is probably sound advice. It may not be the preferred language in Switzerland. In fact it probably ranks something along the lines of Swiss german, english, french, italian, high german (i.e. dead last). But almost everyone will understand you. It’s arguably easier to learn and hey you can use it when you travel to Germany too. But if you married a Swiss or especially if you intend to be a long term resident in Switzerland and want to participate /be accepted more into daily life, then learning Swiss german will pay dividends. If you are here for the long haul, then you are really doing yourself a disservice by not trying to learn the local language. FWIW, I (native english speaker), studied Swiss german before high german and am glad that I did it in that order. This is the order that native Swiss usually learn it as well. However, this opinion is the minority view & lots of people will be quick to suggest the reverse. Caveat emptor and if you can manage it, it would be useful to learn both.

For those of you who haven't already fled in fear, here are a few resources that I have run across. Keep in mind that Swiss german is a spoken language. There is no standard written form and most people (teenagers & children’s books excepted) will write in high german. As with any language, practice is everything, so you should give serious consideration to co-opting Swiss spouses, friends, co-workers, et al into your efforts. You may also find other expats who will practice speaking with you or native speakers that will help you with your Swiss german in exchange for english practice.

Resources for learning Swiss german [all dialects]
listed in no particular order

1. Audio materials & interactive CDROM software

Pimsleur compact Swiss german (audio language course CDs)
A good, if basic introduction. Listen & repeat type audio materials (10 x 30 minute lessons)

Züritüütsch Schweizerdeutsch (2 audio CDs & textbook)
Zurideutsch audio course

Talk the talk Schwytzertütsch (CDROM)
ISBN 1846064899

Talk business Schwytzertütsch (CDROM)
ISBN 1846062896

Eurotalk language courses (CDROM)
From a google search, I have not used these myself
Eurotalk Learn Swiss
Eurotalk Talk more Swiss
Eurotalk Talk business Swiss

Victor Ebner TV series
Another google find. They're pretty sparse with details on their website, but these appear to be videos of everyday life, with Swiss german dialog
TV learning Schwytzerdütsch with Victor (20 lessons on 3 CDs + 6 booklets)
Scenes from the everyday life on DVD (DVD + booklet)
The complete learning Schwytzerdütsch with Victor on video (6 videotapes, 3 CDs, 7 booklets)

Eric Carle: Die kleine Maus sucht einen Freund. Schweizerdeutsche Ausgabe (audio CD)
7 childrens stories in Swiss german
ISBN 3833718757

Schwyzerdütsch mit The Grooves - Local Grooves mit Emil Steinberger (audio CD)
Jazz and pop grooves; Swiss dialect, words and lifestyle
ISBN 389747722X

Linguatec personal translator pro
Translation software, incorporating a text to speech engine (TTS) that seems to do a credible job of pronouncing words. Certainly not a substitute for a genuine teacher or native speaker, but might be especially helpful for those brave souls trying to learn Swiss german outside of Switzerland. It’s a bit pricey, so try the free demo here first –

2. Movies with Swiss german dialog

Die Schweizermacher (1978)
Satirical comedy about becoming (gaining Swiss citizenship) and living as a Swiss. You might recognize a few Swiss *cough*foibles*cough* here. Dialog in Swiss german, with english subtitles. There is also a book of the same name that provides an english transcript to follow the movie with
I've also seen it at Orell Füssli (Bahnhofstrasse 70, Zürich)

Other Swiss german movies /TV shows

3. Classes

Migros school


Offers courses in various dialects, e.g. Berndeutsch

4. Books

Highly recommended. An excellent introduction to Swiss german for english speakers. Includes a basic Swiss german – english dictionary
ISBN 3-905252-13-9

Die Schweizermacher: A Swiss German Tutorial. Harald Fox, Paul Schreier
English transcription /translation of the popular movie (which has Swiss german dialog).
ISBN 3034402422

Barndutsch (le bernois sans peine). Ursula Pinheiro-Weber & Jurg Weber
Narrative in french
ISBN 3-85654-949-8

Schwyzertüütsch. Praktische Sprachlehre des Schweizerdeutschen mit "Grüezi mitenand". Arthur Baur
ISBN 3857010029

Kauderwelsch, Schwiizertüütsch, das Deutsch der Eidgenossen. Isabelle Imhof
ISBN 3894162619

Züritüütsch isch aifach schön (Zurich German is simply beautiful). Harry Fuchs, Paul Schreier
Children’s songs & some vocabulary
ISBN 3833418885

Was ist eigentlich Schweizerdeutsch? Arthur Baur
ISBN 3857010711

Grüezi mitenand. Arthur Baur

5. Dictionaries

Online Swiss – high german dictionary (various dialects)

Berndeutsches Wörterbuch
ISBN 3-305-00255-7

Baselbieter Wörterbuch
Grammatiken und Wörterbücher des Schweizerdeutschen
ISBN 3-85616-129-5

Schweizerdeutsch für alle. Die 1000 gängigsten Wörter. Redensarten. Urs Dörig:
1,000 word Swiss german – high german dictionary
ISBN 3259032916 (1996)
ISBN 3952037001 (1993)

Wie sagt man in der Schweiz? Kurt Meyer
Swiss german – high german dictionary
ISBN 3411041315

Neue Schweizer Wörter. Christian Scholz
ISBN 3719312127

Schweizerisches Idiotikon. Mit etymologischen Bemerkungen untermischt
Swiss german – high german dictionary
Franz J Stalder
ISBN 3794136519

Schwiizertüütsch - Schweizer Slang. Isabelle Imhof
1,500 word Swiss german – high german dictionary

Grammatiken & Woerterbuecher des Schweizer Deutschen. Alber Weber
Out of print
ISBN 0828866481

Wörterbuch Schweizerdeutsch – Deutsch
Slim, Swiss german – high german dictionary
ISBN 3852246032

The alternative Swiss german dictionary
An unabridged online dictionary concentrating on rude expressions & profanity

Schweizerisches Idiotikon: Wörterbuch der schweizerdeutschen Sprache
Definitive, 17-volume academic Swiss german – high german dictionary. Very expensive. Found in many university collections & may be useful to those with easy access to a local university

6. Miscellaneous websites

A text to speech demo. Type a word and have it spoken aloud. I did a straw poll with half a dozen native Swiss speakers and the majority thought that it did a credible job of pronouncing Swiss german words. Useful when your genuine Swiss (spouse/friend/teacher/co-worker) is not at hand. The TTS engine is also incorporated in the Linguatec personal translator pro software

Find a native speaker for ‘tandem’ study. You learn Swiss german, they learn english, usually on a 1:1 basis.

Some Swiss german phrases

Zurituutsch podcasts

Zurich slang

Online Swiss german course (for fee), based on current events

Last edited by itinerant; 25.01.2008 at 21:19.
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