Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Swiss German Language Lessons in Gstaad (1)

Walking towards Gstaad through snowBrilliant mountain weather in the Berner Oberland - a perfect day for a 50 minute hike down from Schönried to Gstaad.

We are joined by our Swiss German friend, Ursel, who lives in the region. The "Wanderweg" (hiking path) takes us over snow-covered fields, past chalets of many famous folks, and alongside farm houses.

At a small stand we Bio Standserve ourselves hot cider. You can also purchase local cheese and sausage - "Bio" (organic), of course, and all on the honor system.

We chat about this and that, in "Schriftdütsch" (Standard German) and Ursel translates a few expressions I ask her about:

Weggli (Brötchen - roll, bun)     Chacheli (Tasse – cup)

Chueche (Kuchen - cake)           Härdöpfel (Kartoffel – potato);

Rüebli (Karotte - carrot)              Anke (Butter - butter)

It has always struck me as curious that Swiss Germans would ask me: "Redä Si Schriftdütsch?" (Do you speak(!) written(!) German?) to find out whether I can also understand "Dialäkt" (dialect).

Ursel points out that Swiss German does not have an official written form. Newspapers and books are done in Standard German, as well as all formal and most informal writing. However, dialect dictionaries are popping up on the Internet, and SMS/Texting and Social Media are popularizing various forms or written dialect, as this Newly Swissed blog explains.

"Bärndütsch" is the Swiss German dialect spoken in the capital city of Bern and the surrounding Canton Bern. Ursel says that, typically, Bärndütsch loves to shorten verbs:

ga (gehen - to go)                ha (haben - to have)

la (lassen - to let)                 gä (geben - to give)

nä (nehmen - to take)          sy ( sind/sein - (are/to be)

Some of these words overlap with those of other Swiss German dialects, and some are distinct for the region of Bern. But, in any case, each region has a distinct accent. Most Swiss Germans can usually pinpoint what region an accent is from.Bärndütsch sign

To get a sense of the sound of Bärndütsch, here's a short YouTube video ad for alcohol-free Feldschlösschen beer. How much can you understand or guess?