Swiss German is not German
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The Italian and French spoken in Switzerland are very close to the languages spoken in France and Italy, with some differences in accent. Swiss German is another story altogether. A Germanic dialect, it is almost never written as people use Hochdeutsch (High German) for writing. Since it is only spoken, it is fast evolving, with numerous colorful expressions that are great fun when you understand them. For example, the Household School for girls is the Rüebli Rekruten Schule (the carrot boot camp). 

Pronunciation is akin to Dutch but more guttural, with many sounds coming from uncharted quarters of the rear of the throat. If you want to have fun with Swiss friends, ask them to pronounce Chuchichäschtli, Swiss German for the “little kitchen cupboard”. 

Being justly proud of their language, the Swiss Germans are often reluctant to speak in High German, perhaps because they are troubled by hearing Germans speak it so fluently. They often prefer to speak English rather than German. 

Bad news for those who want to learn Swiss German, as this language varies widely from one area to another and there’s no standard orthography. The best strategy for visiting English speakers is to ask, “Do you speak English?” and look relieved to find they do, very well.

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