Sunday, July 15, 2007

No. 4: Multilingualism (Swiss Top 10)

I guess the language thing pretty much goes without saying, but is one on my very favorite things about life here. Switzerland has 3 official languages (4 national languages when including the tiny romance language Romansch), the canton and even the town we live in has 2 official languages (German/French) and each and every sign indicates this. In one morning, I may sit down in a cafe and be greeted with a "Bonjour Madame" and proceed to order my coffee in French, then go next door to check out a couple of library books in Swiss German (Bernese dialect to be precise) and then to grab a magazine at the kiosk and speak High German (as in Germany German) with the foreigner who like me, has made Switzerland their home and has given up any short-term hope of mastering the Swiss dialect. Also, regardless of what someone greets you in, you can choose to respond in either one as dictated by necessity or whim and chances are, that person will speak either language flawlessly. So at present, both my German and my French are improving daily....but at a certain cost to my English. It seems there just isn't enough room in my Kopf/tĂȘte/head for all that vocabulary....something's gotta give.

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