Swiss German and German are NOT the same

Grüezi mitenand

This is the Swiss German version of “Hey, y’all.”

Swiss German and German are NOT the same.  When taking German lessons you are taught Hochdeutsch or high German because you must learn the basics of German before throwing them out the window to attempt to learn Swiss German.  High German is the proper form of German.

In school, children are taught high German. They read and write high German, because Swiss German isn’t even a written language. The news  is in high German. 

However, everyday chat is in Swiss German.

Swiss German or Schweizer Deutsch is like cockney.  It is slang spoken by everyone from all education levels and social statuses.  They will switch to high German when they see that deer in the headlights look.  Sometimes, you can tell that they aren’t too happy to switch over, but mostly, they have no problem.

I have met a few Swiss people who say they don’t speak high German well, when they definitely do.   The Swiss are great with languages.  If you ask them “Sprechen sie English?” they always reply with “a little,” and then speak perfect English.  They put us English speakers to shame.

My son attends Swiss playgroups and preschool.  I have heard him speak more Swiss German phrases than high German.  He is picking up the Swiss accent too which is a strange accent.  Instead of “ch” being pronounced hard or soft (both ways are spoken depending on where in Germany you are) it is phlegmy.  Yes, like spitting something!

The accent and vocabulary can differ greatly from kanton to kanton.  So much so that some Swiss people can’t even understand eachother.  Ask any Swiss person and they say don’t bother with trying to learn because it is so confusing. I feel like I should since that’s what my kid and his friends will be speaking.


Here are some basic Swiss German phrases.

Hello Grüezi Guten Tag
Hello (plural) Grüezi mitenand Guten Tag
Good evening Gueten Abig Guten Abend
Hi (more informal than “grüezi”) Hoi Salut
Good bye Widerluege/Ciao/Tschüss Auf Wiedersehen/Tschüss
Thanks a lot Merci vilmal Vielen Dank