Swiss German is a nuanced dialect of German, but it is not a written language. In written form, the Swiss use High German, but spoken, there are specific words, phrases, and pronunciations that are uniquely Swiss German.
Joe, Mo, and I are trying to assimilate to our new home by taking German classes. Mo is doing well in her German class at the International School, plus she is taking French for the first time. Joe is lucky to be immersed in German at work, hearing the language spoken all around him day in and day out, plus he takes one-on-one classes two days a week. And I am enrolled in two classes - one small group class (three of us) and a one-on-one class for a total of four 90/minute sessions of German instruction per week. You'd think with that much instruction I'd be getting the hang of German. At least a little, right?
|Me working on my homework.|
For now, I've been using the coping method of "Smile and Nod". It is amazing how much you can figure out from context and body language. I begin whatever interaction with the customary Swiss German greeting, "Grütze", then I pause and smile. The other person returns the greeting and usually adds something more to it while taking care of whatever transaction we are engaged in. If they continue speaking, I simply nod, wide eyed and attentive. When done, I say, "Danke". I'd say 80% of the time I get away with them not knowing I don't totally understand what they are saying. If they ask me a question I don't recognize, I simply say, "Ich verstehe dich nicht." (I don't understand you.) From my extremely bad pronunciation/American accent they recognize immediately that I am a non-native speaker and switch to English if they are able. If they are not able, we gesticulate until the point gets across. I feel like this is a good way to learn the nuance and cadence of the language while building my vocabulary and confidence, but not forcing people to speak English right off the bat just to accommodate me.
Slowly my German skills are improving, and slowly my confidence is growing. Heck, before long I will be having conversations longer than two to six words...hopefully. My poem below demonstrates my rudimentary German skills:
rosen sind rot
veilchen sind blau
beim lernen Deutsche,
ich bin eine langsam Frau
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.