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Res facta quae tamen fingi potuit ([personal profile] pauamma) wrote in [community profile] forkedtongues2012-11-13 04:26 pm

Yeah, they should learn German, but which dialect(s)? (unfortunately, I don't speak any dialect of German, so I don't know what the linked article says, or in which dialect(s) of German, beyond the summary given in Real Grammar).

And relatedly, I'm wondering: which French dialect is taught first/only in areas of Switzerland where German, Italian, or Romantsch are the primary language?
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[personal profile] pne 2012-11-20 01:27 pm (UTC)(link)
or in which dialect(s) of German

Swiss Standard German, which is essentially the only written form used in Switzerland (especially in newspapers). The various local dialects were rarely written except in special cases such as collections of local stories written in dialect or the scripts for plays, though youth often write in dialect on the Internet (and, I assume, over text messages) nowadays, using an ad hoc orthography.

There’s diglossia: Swiss Standard German, which is essentially identical to the standard German of Germany except for the absence of the letter ß and some small lexical differences, is taught in schools and is used for writing, but nearly never in speech, where the various local dialects continue to reign supreme.

Which is why the article proposes at least acquainting French (and Italian) speakers with German dialects, because if you want to become a politician or be a commanding officer in the army or a manager in a large company, you’re lost if you only speak Standard German and not some variety of Swiss German (i.e. an Alemannic dialect). Not only will you have a hard time understanding the German speakers when they speak amongst themselves, they may not even all have a useful command of spoken Standard German (or may not wish to use it if they do).

It would be a little as if the Welsh speakers in the example were surrounded by people speaking Yorkshire or something along those lines: an accent that I, as a native speaker of English, find all but incomprehensible. If working with such people were necessary, surely it would be more useful to learn Yorkshire rather than (say) General American.

(The equivalent of RP doesn't really exist in the sense that there are speakers that use that form natively. Spoken Standard German is sometimes used, e.g. in news broadcasts, but its domain is very restricted and I'm not sure there are many families that speak it at home, for example.)

And relatedly, I'm wondering: which French dialect is taught first/only in areas of Switzerland where German, Italian, or Romantsch are the primary language?

My guess is “European French”.

As far as I know, European Francophonia is comparatively homogenous and simply not comparable to the situation in Swiss Germanophonia, so teaching a generic “European (as opposed to, say, Québécois) French” will probably serve you well wherever you travel in France, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Switzerland. The previous regional languages such as Picard, Occitan, and such are not spoken much these days, I believe, and I’m not sure how widespread even accents or dialects of French are.

And your question about areas where Romansh is the primary language made me a bit sad, because that language is getting pushed back more and more and the areas where it is the primary language (used in day-to-day conversation on the street, in the home, in the workplace) are getting fewer and fewer. If I remember correctly, it’s pretty much just some places in the northeast and southwest corners of the region where Romansh is traditionally spoken (parts of the Lower Engaine with the Val Müstair on the one hand and parts of the Surselva on the other).

I wonder how long it will take before Romansh ceases to be the language of the local administration, for example, or for there to stop being all-Romansh classes during the first years of school (I don’t think there’s any school that does everything in Romansh until the end of school, and am not even sure whether there’s one that does any Romansh in the last years: the proportion of German used in instruction gets slowly bigger the higher up you go in the school and I think that by the time you graduate, all schools have reduced the Romansh proportion to 0%, though it’s been a while since I read the study on the state of Romansh).