Swiss italian
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In Italian-speaking Switzerland, written or High Italian is used less than the Lombardic dialect common to most of northern Italy. There are also about seven local Ticinese dialects, different again from each other and from Lombardic. Almost all Ticinesi are effectively quadrilingual: to friends and family, the language of intimacy is the home dialect; on the street, the language of friendly conversation is Lombardic; to strangers and where there’s any element of reserve, the language of formality is High Italian; and, in addition, most Ticinesi are also proficient in German and/or Swiss-German in order to communicate with the vast numbers of tourists from the north. English, although spoken by some, remains well down the list.

The upshot of this is that, even if you happened to be fluent in Lombardic dialect, everyone you met in Ticino would anyway instinctively speak to you – a stranger and a foreigner – in standard Italian, which fortunately is not excessively hard for English-speakers to master.


Pronunciation of Italian is easy, since every word is spoken exactly as it is written and usually enunciated with exaggerated, open-mouthed clarity. The only slight difficulties come in the following consonants, which differ from English:

c before e or i is an English ch: “cioccolata” is chokolata

ch is an English k: “chiesa” is kee-ay-za

g before e or i is an English j: “Maggiore” is madge-or-eh, “giorno” is jorno

g before h as in gun

gli as in million: “figlia” is fil-ya

gn as in onion: “bagno” is ban-yo

h is silent

sci as in ship

sce as in shed

z as in bats

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