How Difficult Is It To Learn Swiss German?

Have you ever woken up and decided that today was the day to learn a dialect or language? Have you considered what dialect or language you choose to learn? What you should know is that learning something new takes time, and for Swiss German, it can be a journey of ups and downs when learning, but how hard is it really?

Swiss German can be difficult to learn. It is a dialect of German, making it easier for native speakers to learn. Non-native speakers may find it challenging. Swiss German is more easily understood verbally than in writing.

In this article, we will focus on the dialect, of Swiss German, and its perceived difficulty for both native and non-native speakers. We will also address some ideas and tips on how to get started on a good note. Let’s go ahead and learn how difficult Swiss German can be.

What is Swiss German

Let’s begin by addressing what Swiss German is. As we mentioned a couple of times already, Swiss German is a dialect, not a language. What does this mean? It means that the Swiss German dialect is only region based and as the name suggests, we should know that the country of Switzerland is the one that employs this dialect (Swiss means to relate to the people of Switzerland). Language is standardized and able to be understood both verbally and written, while a dialect is not. That’s the thing too, dialect is only able to be understood through spoken words, with only a very few exceptions.

Returning to the word “Swiss German”, we can break this up to make it easier to understand what we are talking about. The Swiss dialect is based on the German language. As you can see, German is the language while Swiss is a specific, or region-based “language”. Again, only communicating verbally with Swiss German is understood. Any written format is referred to as the German base language as, again, it is the formal language of most of these German-based speaking countries like Switzerland and Austria. Lastly, German is one of four official languages that are present in the country of Switzerland, with Swiss German being the primary association with the German language.

Swiss German’s Perceived Difficulty

Now that we have gotten that brief history out of the way, let’s now redirect to the perceived difficulty of the Swiss German dialect itself. Here, we will address the difficulty for both native and non-native speakers. This can mean those who know German or any other dialect such as Austrian German may find Swiss German a piece of cake, while those who don’t or barely knows, will struggle in the learning process. Let’s start off with those who are already familiar with the German language.

It should come as no surprise that those who speak German in any way will find learning a dialect easier. The only challenge I could see is their adjustment to learning it verbally rather than written as, again, a dialect is not a formal language but a region-only language. Also, having to slightly adjust some terminology and get used to hearing them may be a hassle. For example, if we take the Southern accent and terminology, this is a dialect in itself. We may also consider most of the English spoken in the United Kingdom is a form of the dialect of the United States and vice versa. I believe it won’t be hard for native German speakers to adjust to the Swiss German dialect. On the other hand, if you are a non-native speaker, good luck.

For non-native speakers, you will have extra work to do if you want to understand and speak Swiss German yourself. First off, you cannot learn Swiss German without learning German itself. Well, maybe you can. I personally find it easier to learn a formally universal language in a region such as Germany. The only time I believe you would want to learn that specific dialect is if you are planning to visit that region often or live there. If you are planning to travel throughout, learning the language is a better option to grasp an idea that is equally applicable to these specific regions. Again, just start off learning the German language before anything else.

Swiss German’s Actual Difficulty

In this segment, we won’t necessarily address the overall difficulty of the dialect yet but understand some rules and differences between Swiss German and German itself to get an idea of what is being changed.

The Swiss German dialect is labeled as part of High German, meaning that nearly everything spoken is like the German language with a few exceptions. Some of these are that the “n” at the end of regular German is not pronounced in Swiss German, “ei” vowels are pronounced as “ee” such as feet in the English word, and “i’ at the end of a word is replaced with an “e”, stress the first syllable in a word, and writing “ss” instead of the “B” symbol German use to indicate the “ss” sounds, to name a few.

Again, as we have continued to address, it is a form of dialect that can only be learned through verbal communication. Finding any written material of this dialect will be hard to come by since barely any exist. You must play it by ear always and while some may find this not too hard to do, others may see it as a difficult form of learning relatively. However, to be fair, I personally believe it is best to learn it through verbal communication anyway since that is where most of our day-to-day interaction involves. Speaking verbally in-person or through other sources of communication such as phones and video calls.

Overall, the real difficulty comes from whether you know the base German language or not. And even if you do know German, adjustments must be made in how you pronounce certain words and how conversations are formatted differently in Swiss German.

Resources for Swiss German

As we have talked about the possible complication of learning Swiss German for native and non-native speakers and what changes one might need to be aware of, let’s now go over some resources that could help one learn Swiss German, regardless of its perceived difficulty. These resources may help you get an idea of how challenging the Swiss German dialect is or how scarce resources in Swiss German alone is.

For example, the language learning application service known as Duolingo only provides the German language. In fact, all the languages provided in Duolingo are just that, language. No specific dialect is offered. Also, not to mention, Duolingo only provides so much in that it cannot truly immerse you in the language being learned, meaning you should learn through active interaction with those who speak it, which takes us to online learning.

Online tutors and group sessions such as Sprachschule Schneider, will be one of the most convenient methods of learning the Swiss German dialect in that you are directly communicating with others who are also learning and obviously with tutors and anyone else with more experience online. This means that wherever and whenever you have access to a community you can assist in continued exposure to the dialect so as to get used to it and be familiarized easily.

I personally find this method of using online tutors the best in both costs, time, and effort. If you are well involved in these programs and those associated with them, you may end up making close friends beyond the language learning aspect. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved!

Another method to help you get used to the Swiss German dialect is watching any media that heavily involves the language such as the Swiss-German Learning TV or watching popular Swiss German movies such as Mein Name ist Eugen, Hohenfeuer, and Die gottliche Ordnung. Resources like these can be found on sites or apps such as FluentU. I would consider these forms of learning and/or exposure as second to online accessibility.

Yes, the Swiss German dialect is being spoken, however, you do not dictate where the conversation goes, meaning, you are subject to listening in on a conversation and nothing more. Online tutoring, is actively involved in that you directly communicate with those experienced and will help you receive immediate feedback and scenarios according to your skill level.

Lastly, and perhaps the most challenging method, is to travel directly to the North- and East sides of Switzerland. I say challenging not the context of the dialect itself since being directly in the regions that speak it is the best situation you can be in if learning this dialect, but challenging in that traveling to Switzerland, in general, is costly and will break your budget.

As much as we want to learn Swiss German, nearly all of us cannot simply pack our bags and take a trip to Switzerland. Though Switzerland will be the peak of exposure to the Swiss German dialect, I do not believe it is rational to dedicate time to travel to Switzerland. The only time I see this rationale, is again, if you are visiting there longer than usual or if moving. If none of these, just learn standard German.

Should You Learn Swiss German?

In this final segment, we will address whether it’s worth learning the Swiss German dialect. For a simple answer, no. For a complex answer, I do not think it is worth our time learning the Swiss German dialect. I would’ve said yes if it was the German language, however, this is not the case. I do not believe it is reasonable to take the time to learn a dialect that is only tailored and known in a region in Switzerland. Again, if you know you will be naturally exposed to the Swiss German dialect daily, learn this dialect. If not, it is best to learn standard German as this language can be helpful in getting around nearly all German-speaking countries regardless of dialect.

As we keep saying as well, if you’re a native German speaker or an experienced one, go ahead and learn this dialect if you choose so that you only have to make adjustments to your current dialect. In comparison to non-native speakers or those with less experience, you will already be familiar with the rules of the German language and how the structure of each word, grammar, and phrase is formed. This familiarity itself already provides a significant boost in confidence and advantage over their less experienced counterparts.

In the end, it is safe to say that Swiss German can be difficult to learn. All of this will first be heavily dependent on whether you are a native or non-native German speaker. Second, will depend on your perceived level of exposure to the dialect. Again, doesn’t make sense to learn a dialect for an area you perhaps will never see in your life. Third, native speakers will simply have to adjust while non-native speakers should start with the German language first. And finally, the resources available are best if they utilize verbal learning curriculums while written learning materials are far in-between.

Advice for Learning Swiss German

If you have decided that you would like to try to learn the Swiss German language, we have some specific advice to help you learn the language more successfully.

First off, we want to suggest believing in yourself and having confidence that you can do it. Having confidence in yourself is one of the best ways to help you learn languages better. Another piece of advice would be to find those in your area, or those whom you can call, who know the language and can help teach you. Having someone to speak Swiss German with and practice with is one of the best tips we can give you to learn this language.

Lastly, we’d like to remind you to practice, practice, practice. Everyone says practice makes perfect, but in regards to learning a language, practice really does make a difference in your learning process. We wish you the best of luck!