Essay

The 6 Most Common Languages Spoken in Switzerland

It may surprise you to learn that there are four different languages spoken throughout Switzerland. Although the majority of the country speaks these four languages, two non-native languages have also become more significant in recent years. The nation takes great pleasure in its multilingualism, viewing it as a fundamental component of its culture and identity. Other widely spoken languages besides the six major languages are Spanish, Serbian, Croatian, and Albanian.

Find out which are the top six languages spoken in Switzerland in 2024, along with some fascinating trivia about each.

German

Of the four languages that comprise the national languages of Switzerland, German is the primary language spoken there. In Switzerland, about 62% of people speak German, or more specifically, various dialects of Swiss German. Even with the majority of speakers, 23% of Swiss citizens do not speak Swiss German or any of the other three most common languages. There has been a decline in the number of German speakers in Switzerland in recent years. Yet, it’s also the most widely used language at work, closely followed by standard German.

Switzerland divides and characterises its many member states according to cantons. At least 17 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons—including Zug, Zurich, and Lucerne—speak Swiss German as their first language.

French

French is spoken by about 23% of Swiss people, and that percentage is continually growing. It is the primary language used in the French-speaking Swiss cantons known as the Romandie (sometimes spelt Romandy). With Geneva as the largest metropolis, this region is home to more than two million people.

Experts estimate that when French publications started to make their way into Switzerland in the fifteenth century, people there started speaking French. Since France and Switzerland are neighbours, the French-speaking area of Switzerland is located in the Romandy region on the western side of the country. The four cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Vaud, and Jura are the only ones that speak French.

Italian

In the Swiss canton of Ticino, approximately 8% of people speak Italian as their first language. Italian is less common than Swiss German, French, and English in professional settings when it comes to workplace usage. The region known as Grigionitaliano is where most Italians speak it outside of the canton of Ticino.

When large numbers of Italian immigrants moved to Switzerland in search of employment in the 1870s, the language was initially introduced to the nation. The Gotthard Tunnel was constructed, and up until the 1960s, immigration was a serious endeavour. The Italians who arrived in Switzerland as tunnel labourers weren’t the first to arrive, either. Italian immigrants began to settle in Zurich and Geneva as early as 1800.

Romansh

Even though Romansh is only spoken by.5% of the people in Switzerland, it is nevertheless one of the four official languages of the nation. Romansh is a Rhaeto-Romanic language spoken in the Graubünden canton, derived from Latin. Graubünden is among the four cantons in the nation designated as officially multilingual by the government. The other three are Bienne (also known as Biel in German) and the cities of Bern, Fribourg, and Valais.

Similar to Swiss German and Italian, the population of Romansh speakers has decreased in recent years. Data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office show that between 1910 and 2021, the number of Romansh speakers decreased.

The area where Graubünden is located, Rhaetia, was subjugated by the Romans in 15 BCE. Up until the fifteenth century, people who had moved to Rhaetia after the conquest spoke Ruantsch. German labourers at that time transformed the language into what it is now.

English

Thanks to visitors and professionals, English has gained popularity in Switzerland even though it is not the country’s official language. To the extent that around 60% of the people living in Switzerland can converse in simple English. Although it may not be conversational, knowing that most people in the country speak at least a few words of your own tongue can be beneficial for Americans or English-speaking Europeans visiting the nation.

The largest concentration of English speakers can be found in Switzerland’s major cities, such as Zurich and Geneva. Additionally, a large number of foreign residents live in these cities, increasing the likelihood that your neighbours are multilingual.

Portuguese

Similar to English, Portuguese has become one of the most widely spoken non-native languages in Switzerland thanks to foreigners residing there. Because of the countries’ close proximity and shared political beliefs, Portuguese has grown to be one of the top three immigrant communities in Switzerland. Portugal and Switzerland collaborate on an international level, with many areas of overlap resulting from their association with the UN.