Some Helpful Langauge for Visiting (Northern) Switzerland

Ok, so my phonetics are probably a bit off, but I thought this might help someone so I’m publishing it anyway. One of our visiting friends wanted to learn a few more phrases, so I made this list for her of the words and phrases I use the most in my every day speech here in northern Switzerland and I think would be most helpful to a visitor. These are spelled as I hear them, definitely not written correctly. The accented syllables are in all-caps. I also simplified the pronunciations, as the subtleties in the language are hard to understand unless you hear them.

Hello/Good Day: GROOT-zee

Good Bye: Off-VEE-der-shane *or you can say* AD-dju

Please/You’re Welcome: BIT-eh

Thank You: DANK-eh

Good Evening: SHONE-en-AH-big

Good Morning: GOO-teh MORG-eh *or you can say* MORG-eh

Check, Please!: TZAHL-en BIT-eh

Excuse me/Pardon me: en-TCHOOL-deh-gung *or you can say* eh-SKOOSE-ee

How much does this cost?: vee feel costet das?

I am sorry, I don’t speak German. Do you know English?: en-TCHOOL-deh-gung, ich SPREK-eh KINE-eh deutsch. KENnen-zee ANG-lish?

Bag or Sack: TASH-eh

A few numbers:
1 ein
2 svie
3 dry (or in Swiss German “dru”)
4 fear
5 funf
6 sex
7 zeben
8 ahhcht
9 noyn
10 zehn

Feel free to correct my pitiful attempt or add to it. 😉

Vocabulary Fun!

Even though I got really frustrated with learning German, it wasn’t always a struggle. One of the interesting things about learning German is how certain really long words are just a series of words strung together. Once you figure out which word is what, you can usually decipher most or all of the word. One of my favorite words to say (that I have utterly no use for in everyday conversation) is the word for hot air balloon: Heissluftballon. Heiss is hot, Luft is air, and Ballon is balloon. Easy!

I also like how clear-cut and logical the language can be. The word for shoe is Schuhe. The word for gloves is Handschuhe. Get it?

I think that with any language, the first words you should learn are yes, no, hello, please, thank you, and good-bye. Swiss German has some really unique alterations to those basic commands. Most Swiss folks drop the “n” sound off the end of nein, and sometimes their ja sounds more like a “joh”. Bitte is always “please,” but I’ve heard about a half a dozen variations on how to say “thank-you.” The proper (high German) way to say thank-you is Danke schön. You’ll also hear Vielen Dank, Merci Vilmal, Danke Vilmal, Danke, and Merci (said with a German and not French accent). Saying hello the wrong way can also immediately place you as an outsider. Guten Tag may be the proper way to say hello in German, but everyone in (northern) Switzerland always says Grüezi. For more than one person, you can say what I like to call the translation of “Howdy Y’all” or Grüezi Mitenand. You can also tack on the word Mitenand to your good morning (Guete Morge, short for Guten Morgen) and good evening. I have no idea how to spell how the Swiss say good evening, much less pronounce it, but it is a take on the proper Guten Abend and sounds like “chairnobik” to me. The Swiss good-bye is different from high German as well, though you will hear a lot of shop folks say Auf Wiedersehen because it is considered polite. Uf Widerluege is goodbye, but so is the more informal Tschüss or Ciao!

And of course, in any language, you need to know how to order a beer: ein bier, bitte! 😉

Eddie has a German picture book (Mein kunterbuntes Wörterbuch) with all kinds of vocabulary in it – food, animals, parts of the body. I think one of the funniest is the word for skunk, an animal that only lives in the Americas: Stinktier or literally “stinky animal!”

NOTE: In case you were wondering, all proper nouns when written in German have the first letter capitalized, which makes me a little nuts, but I wrote it correctly in this post. 😉

My First German Lesson

So, for those of you who have been living under a rock (or away from the internet), the hubby, baby, and I have been living in the German-speaking area of Switzerland since July 2008. Our visas expire at the beginning of July 2009, but it is highly likely that they will be extended for another few years and we’ll continue to live in the small city of Winterthur.

For various reasons (mainly money and timing), we couldn’t get signed up for German classes until now. And even then, it is only me taking the class. If we stay in Switzerland for a few years, we plan to take classes every other semester with my husband studying one semester and me another. Partly it is because we’d have to find a reliable babysitter for one (or more) nights a week, and also my lovely husband says he can’t be in the same class with me because apparently I’d drive him insane. 😉

I’ve signed up to take German (high German, not Swiss German, for those in the know – I’ll provide an explanation at some point later*). My class is once a week for about two hours. I was nervous. My learning wasn’t via a private tutor, and it certainly isn’t “German for native English speakers.” I learned French in my American high school and college classrooms, so if you got stuck, you could always say something like, “Comment dit-on <insert English word> en Français?” I was pretty close guessing about the class structure – lots of pointing and pictures. Continue reading