Learn German via Skype

with Claudia Schnyder, German teacher

Why learn Swiss German?

Are you planning to move to Switzerland or do you already live here? I appreciate people’s attitude to learn the local language when they are moving to a new place. In the case of Switzerland, I recommend that you first learn High German. Complete level B1 in High German before starting with Swiss German! The reason is because Swiss German is a dialect and there is no standard written language. Official languages in Switzerland are High German, French, Italian and Romansh. Standardised High German in Switzerland differ slightly from High German spoken in Germany. For example: we don't use the ß (Eszett), we write ss instead. In some cases, we also use different words than Germans. You can visit Helvetisms at the following  link (in German):



Approximately two thirds of the inhabitants of almost eight million people in Switzerland speak Swiss German. They are followed by French speakers with a quarter, Italian speakers make around eight per cent and finally, only a few thousand people speak Romansh.

Within German-speaking Switzerland, in almost every canton a different dialect is spoken. People favourite the accent from the canton Graubünden. The Bernese dialect is linguistically and in terms of the pronunciation quite different from the Zürich Düütsch. You probably will not grasp a word in an isolated Wallis valley. Yet, today’s tendency shows that the dialects are getting more and more homogenous due to people’s flexible working situations and increasing mobility. 

In Switzerland, speaking in dialect is not stigmatised as it is in Germany, where it is often considered as being uneducated. Generally, the Swiss are very proud of their language. Swiss German is part of the regional, national, and personal identity. We know talking in our dialect and culture belong together. If you have a Swiss German speaking partner, you will come to understand him or her better if you also learn the language.


What are the differences between Swiss German and High German?

Swiss German and High German differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Before we get to the individual sounds, I like to point out that we often omit vowels in Swiss German. For non-native speakers, the absence of vowels makes pronunciation difficult. In addition, the Swiss have an ascending and descending sentence melody.


Pronunciation of individual sounds

Ch is always guttural, as in Chuchichaschtli. A popular word that we want the new arrivals to pronounce. The meaning of it is kitchen cupboard. The K becomes a scratchy Ch.

S is always voiceless, unlike in High German.

St always becomes sht, even at the end of a word, eg Frost

T is not aspirated, pronunciation as in tu (as in French or Spanish).

P is not aspirated, pronunciation as in pizza (Italian pronunciation).


No diphthong:Swiss German pronounces both vowels separately as in Müesli, first ü then e. 

Exception: Euro and Europa are pronounced the same as in High German.



Swiss German has many French loan words such as:

Swiss German

High German

s Velo

das Fahrrad



dè Coiffeur

der Frisör

d Saison

die Jahreszeit

s Poulet

das Hähnchen

s Trottoir

der Gehweg, der Bürgersteig

dè Chauffeur

 der Fahrer

d Dessert, s Dessert

die Nachspeise, der Nachtisch

s Spital

das Krankenhaus

d Glace, s Glace

das Speiseeis



Currently, Swiss German is integrating English words even faster than most other European languages. 

See also loan words from English:




To some people it may seem that there are no grammar rules in Swiss dialects. This is not true. However, grammar tends to be slightly reduced compared to High German. Still, sentence structure in most dialects is the same. Remember when we use a compound verb form in a sentence, consisting of a main and a helping verb, the conjugated verb must be in the second position, while the other verb, usually an infinitive or a participle, is at the end of the main clause.


Petra möchte in den Sommerferien nach Italien reisen.

Petra möcht i dè Sommerferiè nach Italiè reise. The syntax is the same as in High German.

Further sentences using the example of separable verbs: the prefix moves to the end of the sentence if the verb is conjugated in the present tense. 

Ich stehe am Morgen um sieben Uhr auf.

Ich schtaa am Morgè am siibni uf. 

Here we use the same structure as in High German.

The perfect tense of the Bernese is an exception. Instead of «Ich habe sie kennengelernt» we use Ech ha se lehre kenne. No participle, the infinitive at the end and learn and teach are not differentiated. 


In Swiss German we use only two tenses, the present and the perfect. While in High German the preterite and perfect tense are interchangeable, in Swiss German we always use the perfect for the past. There is no preterite, no future tense and the Plusquamperfekt does not exist in Swiss German either.

Instead of the four cases used in High German, we use up to three cases in Swiss German.


Wen hast du gestern gesehen? High German uses the interrogative pronoun in the accusative case.

Wer hesch geschter gsee? Swiss German, the same interrogative pronoun applies to both cases, accusative and nominative

Wer ist da?

Wer isch da?


Siehst du den Hund? Accusative pronoun masculine

Gsehsch dè Hund? Pronoun masculine equal to accusative and nominative case

Der Hund ist gross. Nominative pronoun masculine

Dè Hund isch gross. Pronoun masculine equals accusative and nominative.


Finally, we never use the genitive, instead we use the dative case.

The gender can vary depending on the region. Glace, Eis in High German, can be feminine or neutral.


Please contact me today, so we can start our first trial lesson in Swiss German soon!