Skip to main content

Do you speak Rumantsch?

I've been writing about the four official languages of Switzerland, especially Swiss German, quite a bit. It is high time that I introduce the least known language of Switzerland: Rumantsch (ling. "Romansh").
"I speak Rumantsch" (Engadiner Post)
Rumantsch is spoken mainly in the Swiss canton of Grisons which is located on the south-eastern side of Switzerland next to Italy and Austria. According to a census taken in 1990, roughly 65'000 people were speaking Rumantsch regularly, of which 40'000 used Rumantsch as their main language of communication. In in 2000 this number shrunk to only 35'000 people. Not much if you consider the 7 million inhabitants of Switzerland. 

Despite the small number of native speakers, have the mountainous and secluded areas of Grisons produced several different dialects of Rumantsch:
  • Sursilvan
  • Sutsilvan
  • Surmiran
  • Puter
  • Vallader
In the 70ies and 80ies Swiss linguist Heinrich Schmid developed a written version of Rumantsch that united all the different dialects. This new written Rumantsch is called Rumantsch Grischun (lit.: Grisonian Romansh) and recognized as an official Swiss language by the Swiss government and the canton of Grisons. However, the local dialects may be used for official business in several communities.

Having grown up in the flat parts of Switzerland around Zurich, I don't speak Rumantsch myself. A few words here and there are all I can manage. There is an excellent online dictionary for German - Rumantsch called Pledariground and I'll share some of the basics of Rumantsch with you:
  • Bun di! (Good day!)
  • Allegra! (Greetings!)
  • Adia! (Goodbye)
  • Co vai con tai? (How are you?)
  • bun, bain (good)
  • nausch (bad)
  • Grazia! (thank you!)
  • Anzi! (You're welcome!)
  • Svizra (Switzerland)
What I really love is that Rumantsch has several different words for mountain. In Swiss German or English we would simply call all of them "mountain" or "hill" but Rumantsch makes other differences:
  • muntogna (mountain)
  • munt (hill)
  • culm (hilltop)
  • piz (mountain peak)
  • mantun (used in sentences like "a mountain of work")
  • pluna (mountain)
Listen to Rumantsch in this commercial of the Grisonian tourist office. The first ibex is speaking Rumantsch, the second speaks Swiss German:



Sources: pledariground.ch and wikipedia.com



© 2012 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Comments

  1. Regarding the commercial movie:

    Another interesting aspect is, that the second ibex speaks a Grisonian-specific Swiss German dialect, very easily detectable for a Swiss German ear. And by the way, to be percieved by the mass as one of the most sexy Swiss German dialects.
    All these ibex-based commercials play with an humoresque approach. In this one the second ibex pretends not to understand Rumantsch very well, or he is at least a bit lazy in translating the over-seriously stated comments about the beautiness of the Grisons by the first ibex.
    The ibex is seen as a synonym of the canton of Grison (German: Graubünden), since the ibex appears in its flag.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You have something to add or would like to ask a question? I would love to hear from you!

Popular posts from this blog

How to Spot a Swiss Person

As an expat one usually spots fellow expats right away. It's not only the language or the looks of people but rather the little peculiarities of life that seem so normal at home that give us away while abroad. Obviously, it's a cliche that all people from the same place (country, city, continent) behave in the same way and I am far from making that claim. However, growing up in a certain surrounding does rub off on people's behavior and some similarities can certainly be observed.

This is also true for Swiss people. According to the Swiss stereotype, we are a clean, punctual and strictly organized people. However, there are many exceptions like my Swiss friend who is always late or my brother whose room was a total mess while growing up. Yet, although they do not fit the description of a typical Swiss person, they still have some traits that give them away as Swiss. The same is probably true for myself - if I like it or not.
10 Signs you are dealing with a Swiss Person So,…

Schätzli, Schnüggel and Müüsli - Terms of Endearment in Swiss German

If you've ever been invited to the home of a Swiss couple, you are probably familiar with the most popular Swiss German term of endearment "Schätzli" (little treasure) or one of it's many varieties like e.g. "Schatz" or "Schätzeli". Obviously, this is not the only pet name used by Swiss couples (or parents for that matter). Like many other languages, Swiss German offers a wide variety of words and phrases that you can use to address your loved one.

What most of these pet names have in common is the ending "-li" which basically turns the thing or person a word refers to into something small. For example "Haus" means house and "Hüüsli" means small house. This ending "-li" can also be added to first names as a means of endearment, e.g. Benjaminli, Estherli or Fabienneli.

I tried to come up with a collection of Swiss German pet names but realized I only know a handful. However, after combing through the interne…

10 Fun Things to do on a Rainy Day in Switzerland

The weather has been so so these last few days and will remain rainy and rather cold. No swimming in one of the many lakes of Switzerland, going on a nice bike trip or playing soccer outside unless you are willing to endure some heavy rain. :)

However, there are plenty of fun things to do in Switzerland even on rainy days. Here's the list of my current favorite rainy day activities:
Alpamare: Biggest water park of Switzerland with dozens of water slides and pools. It's open all year round since most of the baths and slides are indoors. It is perfect for a rainy day since there are usually less people than on a sunny day.Zoo Zurich: The famous zoo in Zurich features bears, elephants, monkeys, tigers and the mazoala hall (a tropical glass house). Many animals can be visited in their houses.Swiss National Museum: The Swiss National Museum in Zurich gives an overview over the cultural history of Switzerland. Swiss Museum of Transport: The Museum of Transport in Lucerne tells the h…