Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Swiss German Language Lessons in Gstaad (1)

Walking towards Gstaad through snow Brilliant mountain weather in the Berner Oberland. It's a perfect day for Swiss German Language Lessons  while on a 50-minute hike down from the village of Schönried to the town of Gstaad.

Our teacher is our Swiss German friend, Ursel, who comes from the city of Bern.

The "Wanderweg" (hiking path) takes us over snow-covered fields, past chalets of many famous folks, and alongside farm houses.

Bio StandAt a small stand along the way, we serve ourselves some 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). "Bärndütsch" (Berndeutsch) is the Swiss German dialect spoken in the Swiss capital city of Bern and in some of the surrounding Canton Bern. Ursel translates a few words I ask her about.

1. Nouns in Berndeutsch

• Weggli (Brötchen - roll, bun)
• Chueche (Kuchen - cake) 
• Härdöpfel (Kartoffel – potato)
• Rüebli (Karotte - carrot)
• Anke (Butter - butter)
• Chacheli (Tasse – cup)
• Hungg (Honig - honey)

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.

Ursel says that, typically, Bärndütsch loves to shorten verbs. Here are a few examples.

2. Verbs in Berndeutsch

• 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 the words in Berndeutsch 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 sound system and 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?