How to Converse Politely in Switzerland

Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:02 AM
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How to Converse Politely in Switzerland

Hello Fellow Travelers,

When I travel to other countries I try to learn a few phrases in the native language, one of them asking if they can speak English (since that's all I can speak!). We're traveling in Switzerland and I know most people can speak some English, but I still like to inquire first in their language. In Switzerland, what language should I learn the phrase: "Hello, do you speak English?"

Thank you!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:10 AM
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It depends on what part of Switzerland you are visiting. Switzerland has four national languages.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:11 AM
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You need to learn French, German, and Italian---each is the primary language in parts of CH---there is no Swiss language other than a local dialect that is not common.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:16 AM
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And Romansch.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:17 AM
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Learn it in French and Swissdeutsch, and Italian if you are going to that area. I think you can ignore Romansch. It's one sentence - how hard can it be?
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:29 AM
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Just note that there are at least 4 dialects of Romansch.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:30 AM
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Not too bad since I travel pretty often in France and Italy and am familiar with those languages. The Swissdeutsch I have to figure out. Thank you.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 07:24 AM
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If you say Gruezi they might hear your accent and know where you are from and do the switch to English for you...
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 08:33 AM
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Danke!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 08:53 AM
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"The Swissdeutsch I have to figure out."

You don't really need to. Hochdeutsch will be understood.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 09:10 AM
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Well, the Schweitzerdeutsch spoken in Graubunden and some forms of Romantsch are so hard to figure that in several cases I was not even able to figure if the lady at the supermarket cash desk had greeted me in German or Romantsch. Actually, the only reply to the original poster is: just ask if they speak English...
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 11:03 AM
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Judy:

There are 5 officially recognized dialects of Rumantsch (two of them are split in mutually recognizable sub-dialects) with a combined base of about 40'000 native speakers. Actually you won't run the risk of meeting a person who does not speak another language.

Schweizerdeutsch is no homogenous language. It consists of scores of dialects that are generally mutually understood. Dialects from relatively isolated parts of the country, however, need close attention of the listener unfamiliar with them.

Hello translates into Grüezi, Grüessech, or Guete Daag depending on the region.

Paper bag for example translates into: Gugge, Gügge, Sack, Seckel, Goorne, Ursi, Lood, Löödli, Briefsackji, Schgmutz, Scharmutz, Briefsack, Chuchere, Loodsack, Pageet, Gschtrnutz or Pack (and no, there are no typos). So make your choice ;-)

Just learn the standard German phrase "Guten Tag, sprechen Sie Deutsch?". You will be fine.

Enjoy your trip.

Phil.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 11:34 AM
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THE answer is DON'T SWEAT IT. You will have no problem in Switzerland as long as you are polite.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 12:40 PM
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WELL! I never thought there would be so many interesting answers. I'll stick with the basic German I used while driving the Romantic Road and then go with Duckey1's answer: Don't Sweat It, Just Be Polite!

Thanks all.
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