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Bilingual Countries: Switzerland in the Spotlight!

Bilingual countries of the world continues in… Switzerland! Famous for it’s Swiss Alps and stunning scenery, Switzerland has made the list as one of the most bilingual countries in the world.

Bilingual countries: Switzerland Quick Facts:

Bilingual countries

Switzerland: photo wisegie


Population: ~8,000,000

Official Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansch (in order of total speakers)

Number of Bilinguals: A lot.

Fun Fact: They have no national flower, animal or motto. They are so neutral!

Favorite quote: from swissworld.org 

“In business meetings or at national conferences, it frequently happens that everybody speaks in their mother tongue, and it is assumed that they understand the language of their opposite numbers. Usually, however, the Ticinese and Rumantsch speakers adapt to the situation by speaking French or German – or, more and more, everyone speaks English.”

bilingual countries switzerland

Bilingual Countries: Switzerland

How cool is that? Everyone just speaks in their mother tongue and everyone else understands (theoretically.) Switzerland is one of those rare gems; a language nerds dream. I long to live in Switzerland. I would obviously immediately speak four languages fluently and have a stacked and packed Swiss bank account. Switzerland solves all problems.

Switzerland sits at the intersection of France, Germany, and Italy, fueling the proverbial fire. It made the list of bilingual countries due to it having to accommodate all of those cultures and languages in one relatively small place. It is a beautiful cesspool of linguistic wonder nestled deep in the Alps with different dialects in every valley; or as I like to call it, my nirvana.

As the quote above states, most people in Switzerland are at least bilingual if not trilingual; depending on how you define those terms. The dream that everyone speaks four languages is just not realistic. In fact, the website for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Presence, an obviously fantastic source with that important name, states the following:

The Swiss can certainly be proud of their linguistic proficiency and many understand the other languages of their fellow countrymen very well. However, proficiency in the national languages is decreasing in [favor] of English. Quadrilingual Switzerland is apparently becoming a two-and-a-half-language Switzerland. Many people speak their mother tongue and English and understand a second national language.”

As we see in other bilingual countries, English is a major player. The linguistic breakdown of languages spoken as native languages is as follows:

German 63.7%
French 20.4%
Italian 6.5%
Rumantsch 0.5%
Other 9 %

Of the bilingual countries, Switzerland is perhaps one of the most appealing. It’s stunning mountains, beautiful lakes (you’re never more than 10 miles from a lake in Switzerland. Ever.) and gloriously indifferent stone-cold neutrality all make this little linguistic local a place to consider when looking for refuge from monolingualism, or the IRS.

For more information, check out this website: http://www.swissworld.org/en/people/language

other photos by victorvelez

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About Jeffrey Nelson

Jeffrey Nelson is a husband, father, author and bilingual living and working in the Midwestern United States. He lives with his Mexican wife and their son, Liam, who is currently being raised bilingual in English and Spanish.

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