COMMUNICATING WITH THE SWISS
Switzerland has four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh, but German predominates. In principle, speakers of all four languages have equal rights. In practice, however, the smaller groups sometimes have to struggle to assert their political and economic rights. The federal constitution states that German, French and Italian are Switzerland's official languages. They have equal status in Parliament, the federal administration and the army. In 1938, Romansh was declared the fourth national language. 

German is spoken by about three-quarters of the population, primarily in the central and northern areas. Although German-speaking Swiss learn formal German or High German at school, in everyday conversation they often use a regional German dialect. French is spoken by about 20% of the population, mostly in the west. Swiss French is similar to the French spoken in France. Italian is spoken by about 5% of the population, mostly in the south. Swiss Italians use three different kinds of Italian: the local dialect, the general Lombard dialect known as koine, and literary or standard Italian. 


 
 
  Did you know?
Between 70 and 80 Swiss-German dialects are spoken in Switzerland. They are commonly referred to as SchwyzerdŁtsch.
Romansh is spoken by about 1% of the Swiss, mostly in the canton of GraubŁnden. Romansh belongs to the Rhaeto-Romanic group of languages. When the Romans conquered the valleys of Rhaetia in 15 B.C., the original inhabitants incorporated some Latin words into their language. The language survived because this region was isolated for many centuries. Although the Romansh-speaking community consists of only about 50,000 people, they are divided into five groups, each with its own distinct version of the language.

 Most Swiss speak at least two of the national languages. Many also speak or at least understand English. Business is usually conducted in French, German or Italian, but some larger companies use English.

The Swiss are known for their use of polite formalities at social functions or in business transactions. They greet friends and say goodbye by gently kissing cheek to cheek three times. With business associates and new acquaintances, they shake hands upon meeting and again upon leaving.
 
 
English French German Italian Romansh
Good morning Bonjour Guten Morgen Buon giorno Bien gi
Good evening Bonsoir Abend Buona sera Buna sera
How are thing? Comment Áa va? Wie geht's? Come va? Sco vai?
Thank you Merci Danke Grazie Engraziel
You're welcome Je vous en prie Bitte Prego Anzi