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IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland’s population is becoming increasingly multilingual

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The Local - [email protected]
IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland’s population is becoming increasingly multilingual
most of the country’s residents speak one or more foreign languages. Photo by AFP

Switzerland has four official languages. But beyond German, French, Italian and Romansh, most of the country’s residents speak one or more foreign languages.


Here are some interesting findings from a new study by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO): 

English is the most widely used non-national language in Switzerland.

Some 45 percent of the Swiss population speaks it regularly. Its use is more widespread in German-speaking Switzerland than in the Italian and French-speaking regions (46 percent against 37 percent and 43 percent, respectively).

English is most popular among young people — some 72 percent of 15-24 year olds communicate in it at least once a week. But this figure drops to 59 percent among 25-39 year olds, and 22 percent among those over 65.

English is also the most frequently learned language (33.9 percent), ahead of German (15.4 percent), French (15 percent), Spanish (11.1 percent) and Italian (8.6 percent).

Only 3.5 percent are learning Swiss-German.


More than two-thirds of Switzerland’s residents speak at least one foreign language.

In pure numbers, 68 percent of people in Switzerland speak one non-national language at least once a week.

Of the population as a whole, 38 percent speak two languages regularly, 21 percent speak three, 6.4 percent four and 1.7 percent five or more.

Overall, the share of people living in households where more than one language is spoken is 32 percent.

Not surprisingly, multilingualism is most prevalent among immigrants.

Forty-one percent of first generation migrants and 49 percent of second and third generation regularly use at least three languages, while this share is only 21 percent among the native Swiss.

The most commonly used non-national languages among 70 in use in Switzerland are Albanian (6.7 percent), Portuguese and Spanish (4.9 percent), Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian (3.8 percent), and Turkish (2.8 percent).

READ MORE: Jobs in Switzerland: Foreigners 'less likely to be hired than Swiss nationals'

On the home front, German rules.

Seventy-six percent of Switzerland’s population regularly use German, 65 percent Swiss- German, 39 percent French, 15 percent Italian, and 0.9 percent Romansh.

Finally, a large majority (84 percent) of the population believe in the importance of speaking more than one national language to promote cohesion in Switzerland.




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