Languages in Switzerland
Switzerland is a small country and is proud of its four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. Swiss German is spoken in German-speaking Switzerland, French in western Switzerland (“Suisse romande”) and Italian in southern Switzerland (Ticino and parts of southern Grisons). Romansch is spoken by a minority in Grisons.
The majority of the population (over 60%) speaks Swiss German, albeit with different regional dialects. These dialects differ greatly from standard German, or “Hochdeutsch”, with their own expressions and their own pronunciation. “Hochdeutsch” is the written language in German-speaking Switzerland and is what is taught in schools.
Because Switzerland is a multicultural country, there are many other languages in use besides the national languages – chiefly English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish and the Slavic languages.
Communication at ETH Zurich
Swiss German is spoken in Zurich. At most ETH Zurich institutions, English is the language used in communication and academic life. English is also widely understood in Zurich but, in order to integrate both socially and linguistically, we recommend that you learn German. Swiss people are keen to put their language skills to the test and will often switch to English once they realise the person they are talking to is not a German native-speaker. If you would like to learn German, insist on Swiss people speaking German to you and explain why you would like them to do this. They will be happy to assist you in your efforts to learn German.