The Final Information to Swiss French (Phrases Included!)



The mountains are calling! From breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps to an assortment of out of doors actions—snowboarding, ziplining, and mountain climbing—there’s a purpose why Switzerland is on the high of so many journey lists. Plus, you possibly can’t neglect the meals (cheese and chocolate), the cutest of cities (Lucerne and Montreux), and the friendliest of individuals. 


Switzerland is uniquely positioned between a number of the world’s most well-known mountains, and bordered by quite a lot of nations, languages, and cultures on all sides—therefore why le français suisse (Swiss French) is so ubiquitous in Switzerland, alongside German, Italian, and Romansh. 

The query is: will your Normal French be helpful in Switzerland? As with most languages that cross borders, Swiss French has advanced from its customary counterpart to incorporate nuances of its personal. Let’s check out how the 2 dialects differ and the place new phrases will turn out to be useful! 


It doesn’t matter what dialect or area you’re exploring, there’s extra to a language than memorizing vocabulary and verb charts. Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion can deliver linguistic selection proper to your fingertips, mirroring the way in which you first acquired language as a toddler. And if you happen to’re seeking to put your French to good use by reserving a visit and soaking within the helvétismes (phrases specific to Swiss French), we’re right here that can assist you put together!

>>You’ll wish to know 100+ Fundamental French phrases for any state of affairs earlier than you pack your baggage!

Why is French spoken in Switzerland? 

Languages don’t match passports, particularly not in Switzerland the place there are 4 official languages! Most Swiss residents are bilingual, and it’s not unusual to fulfill a Swiss polyglotte (polyglot) who speaks greater than two languages. 

In Switzerland, French is the dominant language of the Romandy area. The romands (Francophone Swiss individuals), reside primarily within the Western a part of the nation, particularly close to Geneva, Vaud, and the decrease Valais. 4 of the Swiss cantons, the member states of the Swiss Confederation, have French as their sole official language, and it has co-official standing in three extra.  

We have a tendency to think about Switzerland as utterly unbiased and impartial, however the historical past of this area was as soon as affected by the numerous conflicts and modifications in energy that characterised Europe for hundreds of years. The French language was already highly effective when it comes to literature, tradition, and the humanities by the thirteenth century, so the language was unfold by books and proximity to individuals who may afford to journey. Some older dialects of French like Franco-Provençal united the world, however Normal French finally took over. Together with German, Italian, and Romansh, French has had official standing on the nationwide stage because the Confederation was shaped in 1848. 

The French spoken in Switzerland doesn’t differ an excessive amount of from its neighboring model in France. Swiss German, then again, spoken by over 66 % of the inhabitants, is nearly unintelligible to Normal German audio system who haven’t studied it earlier than. Every canton has its personal official language. It will be thought-about vital and good manners to make use of the suitable greetings relying on the area. Un peu compliqué (somewhat sophisticated) for vacationers hoping to expertise all that Switzerland has to supply, however language lovers will discover this an inspiring problem!  

How many individuals communicate French in Switzerland?

There are thrice as many Swiss German audio system as French audio system, however within the areas often known as “Romandy,” the overwhelming majority of individuals will communicate French as both their first or second language. In truth, the time period la Romandie refers to not a political boundary however a perceived or casual linguistic one.  

Nonetheless, greater than two-thirds of the inhabitants of the nation is bilingual, talking at the least two of the confederation’s nationwide languages, in addition to many who communicate English as an extra language taught at school. Some estimates point out as many as 2 million individuals fall into the Swiss francophone class, however this quantity is prone to be higher, as many individuals be taught extra languages once they reside, work, and do enterprise in shut proximity!  

When you’re touring to Switzerland as a vacationer, particularly by the western area, you’ll haven’t any bother discovering somebody that can assist you together with your French (and even help you in English).  

What does a Swiss French accent sound like? 

Most individuals can’t understand their very own accent, however virtually everybody’s speech is affected by the place they grew up. English audio system from around the globe all appear to have vastly completely different pronunciation and tone however can nonetheless perceive one another. Examine Louisiana to Liverpool, or Sydney to Scotland, and you’ll respect what we imply once we focus on the range of regional accents!

It’s vital to notice that there is no such thing as a one specific Swiss French accent. Identical to in English, there are regional variations, even between areas which can be solely separated by a pair hours’ drive. For somebody who has grown up in Switzerland, the accents may be apparent between cities. It’s tougher to parse for learners. When you’re a cautious listener, there could possibly be just a few hints that set completely different audio system aside.

Listed below are a number of pronunciation components to pay attention to: 

  • Some phrase endings may be pronounced with extra readability in Swiss French.   
  • Many say that Swiss French audio system communicate extra slowly and will enunciate extra clearly.   
  • The intonation of a sentence as an entire might have completely different qualities in tone and rhythm, with a barely completely different stress on some syllables than that inside different areas. 
  • A couple of vowels are pronounced in another way from one another, resembling mettre (to place) and maître (instructor, pet proprietor) and pattes (paws) vs pâtes (pasta), however a learner might not even discover this refined distinction. 

What are the variations between Swiss French and Normal French? 

Affect of different nationwide languages

It’s simpler to be taught a language when you will have extra alternative to attach with it. As a result of many Swiss German, Italian, and Romansh audio system have realized French and vice-versa, there was fairly a little bit of affect between the languages, not simply when it comes to borrowed vocabulary and pronunciation, however sometimes phrase order and intonation.  

The next widespread Swiss French phrases come from the affect of German: 

  • une motion (particular supply) from “Aktion” (promotional marketing campaign) 
  • le foehn from “der Föhn” (hairdryer) 
  • poutzer from “putzen” (to scrub) 
  • mutr  from “Mutter” (mom) 
  • vatr from “Vater” (father)  

Although many audio system of Normal French will emphasize the distinctive phrases or buildings as a caricature of French in Switzerland, what they really could also be emphasizing is the way in which that audio system of different languages sound once they have realized French.  


It’s a widespread frustration for learners that numbers within the seventies, eighties, or nineties, require a calculation in French. This odd function of French numbers makes many learners wish to throw within the towel! Nevertheless it seems that it’s completely important data for costs, telephone numbers, addresses, dates, and extra. 

soixante-quinze (60+15) = seventy-five (75) 

quatre-vingt-trois (4×20+3) = eighty-three (83) 

quatre-vingt-dix-sept (4×20+10+7) = ninety-seven (97)

If solely there have been an easier approach! Swiss phrases septante (70), huitante (80) and nonante (90) to the rescue! You should still have to make use of quatre-vingts (80) in some elements of Switzerland, as huitante is simply recurrently utilized in just a few of the cantons. 

Sigh. French numbers are tough. Simply get used to asking for clarification if you happen to’re not sure! 

Swiss French Normal French Quantity
septante soixante-dix 70
septante et un soixante-onze 71
septante-trois soixante-treize 73
huitante quatre-vingts 80
nonante quatre-vingt-dix 90
nonante et un quatre-vingt onze 91
nonante-deux quatre-vingt-douze 92

Names of meals 

When you’ve studied the distinction between the names of meals in France versus Québec or Belgium, it is a acquainted distinction. The phrases for  “dinner,” “supper” and even “tea” could cause confusion in English as properly, so it’s helpful to know the norms within the area you might be visiting. 

Switzerland France Which means
Le déjeuner Le petit-déjeuner the primary meal within the morning, breakfast 
Le dîner Le déjeuner mid-day meal
Lunch, luncheon, dinner (relying on English-speaking area) 
Le souper Le dîner night meal
Dinner, supper (relying on English-speaking area) 

Use of each older and newer phrases  

Identical to in Québec and Belgium, there are traces of older dialects of French that had been in use when the language initially unfold to the brand new areas, and are nonetheless in use there at the moment, however have disappeared or are thought-about antiquated in France at the moment. For instance, une réclame (commercial, industrial) has been changed in France by une publicité.  

Then again, phrases which were invented since Switzerland turned unbiased, resembling some phrases in authorities, know-how, or phrases for newer merchandise or concepts, will probably be completely different from France as properly. For instance, número postale is the time period in Switzerland, as a substitute of code postal (zip or postal code). Un natel (a cell phone) was derived from a specific firm in Switzerland, and is used as a substitute of the overall téléphone moveable (cellular phone) in France. 

What phrases or phrases ought to I do know if I’m touring to Switzerland?

Excellent news! Your French will serve you properly in Switzerland. French audio system in Switzerland are uncovered to multitudes of Normal French on French tv and radio, although the alternative won’t be true. Maintain your eyes and ears open for some new methods to precise the identical concepts in Switzerland!

Socializing and procuring

Swiss French Normal French / English Which means 
adieu Bonjour/ Salut/ Au Revoir / À bientôt 
Hey / Goodbye
That is solely stated in Normal French as a farewell if you don’t count on to see the particular person once more. 
une motion  une promotion
a particular supply or low cost
un bancomat un guichet / distributeur automatique
an ATM / money machine 
bonnard sympa
good (casual) 
une bonne-main un pourboire
a tip / gratuity 
Ça joue ? Ça va ? Ça marche ? C’est bon ? 
How’s it going? All good? Does that work? 
un cornet un sac en plastique
a plastic bag (for procuring) 
une réclame une publicité
an commercial 
Sans autre Pas de problème
No drawback
Santé ! À tes souhaits ! / à vos souhaits !
Bless you! (What you say when somebody sneezes) 
Service !(shortened from À votre service Je t’en prie / Je vous en prie
You’re welcome. 
un natel  un (téléphone) moveable
a cellular phone 

Widespread objects and locations

Do not forget that selection and richness of the French language we talked about? Take into account that many of those phrases could possibly be utilized in varied Francophone areas, or not used in any respect in elements of Switzerland. Swiss French is extremely regional, and it offers you a chance to attach with locals in each area! 

Swiss French Metropolitan French/ English Which means
l’attique le dernier étage 
the highest ground
un boguet une mobylette
a moped
une borne hydrante une bouche d’incendie
a fireplace hydrant
les cutips les coton-tiges
cotton swabs, from the pronunciation of the model identify “Q-tips.” 
un cover une couette
a cover / a comforter
un fonds un terrain / un champs
a discipline
un galetas un grenier
an attic
une giratoire un rond-point
a roundabout / site visitors circle
un linge une napkin
a towel
une panosse une serpillière
a mop
le papier ménage le papier essuie-tout
paper towel
les companies le couvert
le tablard l’étagère
the shelf

Phrases associated to schooling 

Swiss French Normal French/ Which means
le collège le lycée
le cycle le collège
center faculty
L’uni (quick for l’université)  la fac(quick for la faculté
la maman de jour l’assistante maternelle
day care assistant / nanny
mascogner tricher (aux examens
to cheat on a check
la maturité le baccalauréat
(comparable) an vital highschool last examination 
le procès verbal d’examen (PV) le bulletin de be aware
the report card

Are there any notable cultural variations between France and Switzerland? 

Each area of the world has its specific practices on the floor that will point out cultural views and values beneath. There are sometimes some unwritten guidelines that characterize the overall behaviors and norms of a tradition. A few of these observations might recommend a similarity or slight cultural distinction between the tradition of France or elsewhere.

A powerful relationship with time

Whereas in some cultures, time and scheduling are loosely held and versatile, Swiss tradition appears to treat the clock with extra significance—and never simply due to the well-known Swiss watch craftsmanship! Being late to a deliberate occasion is thoughtless, and planning forward is extremely valued.  

As a vacationer, you’ll discover this attitude when making journey plans. It’s not only a small low cost if you plan your journey forward. Your practice ticket can value over thrice as a lot if it’s a final minute journey! And a fast tip if you happen to’re touring: if you happen to don’t buy the proper ticket, you may be fined. 

When you make associates, be ready to seek the advice of your calendar to plan forward as a substitute of the spontaneity chances are you’ll be accustomed to. Be punctual to your get-together, each in arrival and departure! Lingering might not enable the opposite particular person to get to the subsequent merchandise on their agenda. 

This stated, guests to Switzerland don’t typically discover that they’re in a rush. The important thing to punctuality and sticking to your schedule is to plan forward. That approach, you possibly can totally embrace the exercise or firm and reside extra within the second.  

Concern for others

Strolling across the lovely atmosphere of Switzerland’s cities and pure areas, many guests marvel at how clear and kept-up all the things appears. It isn’t solely thought-about very impolite to litter, however you possibly can be fined for it. Volunteers choose up trash whereas getting train. Concern for the atmosphere has led to particular sorting and recycling practices and the choice to make use of reusable carry-out bins at eating places in lieu of disposable gadgets.  

Laundry is usually cited as one of many extra shocking elements of dwelling in Switzerland.  As a result of many dwellings are shared flats and particular permits are required for set up of private washing machines, many individuals make use of those amenities. Widespread necessities embody a schedule for laundry days, cut-off dates to keep away from disrupting your neighbors with the noise of the machine, and signing up on a schedule.  

In Switzerland, respect for others additionally extends to companion animals, as evidenced by stricter animal welfare legal guidelines and stiff penalties for noncompliance. Cat house owners should present every cat its personal litter field, one room per cat, scratching posts, and every day interplay with people or different cats. Declawing a cat isn’t just a faux-pas, it’s unlawful. Canines have comparable protections when it comes to area and interplay, and should not be left alone for greater than 4 hours at a time. It’s unlawful to crop ears, dock tails, or use anti-barking shock collars. House owners of some species should personal a number of critters if they’re thought-about social animals. These guidelines and legal guidelines don’t deter pet possession, as a lot of households share their area with a furry or feathery pal.  


Clothes generally worn in public, even to do chores and errands, tends to be much less informal, as fewer Swiss individuals will go for the “athleisure” look except they’re collaborating in mountain climbing or different bodily actions. Whereas clothes might be neat and trendy, top quality and even identify model or designer, it isn’t widespread to put on splashy logos or equipment that draw consideration to their costly value. Understated high quality could be the suitable strategy to go!    

When you plan to buy clothes, concentrate on excessive costs and don’t count on to buy on a Sunday. It’s broadly thought-about a day of relaxation in a lot of the nation, and plenty of locations will probably be closed. 

Respectful social interactions

Practices that present that you’re respecting these round you embody: 

  • protecting a quieter voice in public
  • utilizing final names and formal methods to handle somebody till you realize them properly
  • being certain to greet everybody within the room upon arrival
  • leave-taking by saying goodbye to everybody
  • handshakes or three kisses on each cheeks

When driving public transportation, it’s frowned upon to place your ft up on a seat. You’ll need to perk up and permit room for others.  

When you go to a house, it can be crucial that the go to is deliberate forward and that you simply come bearing a small present. Get to know somebody properly earlier than discussing doubtlessly controversial subjects. Be sure you make eye contact when clinking glasses when it’s time for “cheers!” 

Discover French in each area with Rosetta Stone

Whether or not you’re planning a visit, or simply connecting with Swiss tradition on-line, studying in regards to the French in Switzerland will enrich your language studying expertise. Only a little bit of consciousness of regional language variations helps us keep curious and ask inquiries to keep away from an excessive amount of confusion.  

Have already got a visit to Switzerland on the calendar? Navigate widespread journey conditions with ease. Rosetta Stone’s Phrasebook teaches you helpful phrases associated to eating out, getting round, well being and security, and extra. Hear a local speaker pronounce every expression and observe saying them your self, so that you’ll be ready for any real-world encounter.

Since most of us can’t journey as a lot as we’d like, deliver different French regionalisms straight to you! Brush up in your expressions whereas having fun with a Rivella (a carbonated soda made with milk whey!), or over some fondue! We’d fairly provide the instruments to make reminiscences fairly than give attention to memorization alone, so Rosetta Stone focuses on vocabulary and buildings in participating contexts. Uncover the world whereas studying French naturally proper from residence!

Written by Jamie Edwards

Jamie is a learner and instructor of Spanish and French. When she’s not studying new phrases, you’ll discover her on the soccer sidelines, ski slopes, and monitor and discipline bleachers having fun with the 4 seasons of Western New York.


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