There are four official languages in Switzerland, which means that you have at least four possible ways to say hello in this country. The four languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Find out what language (s) a person speaks before greeting them. Keep in mind that, especially in big cities, most Swiss citizens can speak English quite well.
Method 1 of 5: Choose the Right Language
Step 1. Know what languages are spoken in each region
65-75% of Swiss citizens speak Swiss German, especially in northern and central Switzerland. 20% speak French, and 4-7% speak Italian. French and Italian are most common along the respective borders with France (to the west) and Italy (to the south). Romansh is an ancient language, native to some southern regions, which is spoken by less than 1% of the Swiss.
Bear in mind that many Swiss are multilingual. German is a good option anywhere in the country but you could get by with French, Italian or English, regardless of the region
Step 2. Try to speak English
Just say "Hello!" Most Swiss speak at least some English, especially in big cities. Locals might be impressed if you make the effort to reach out to them using their mother tongue, but you can easily make your way with English in most metropolitan areas. Bonus: the English word "hello" shares its roots with the German word "hallo", so if you use the right intonation it could be briefly confused with German.
Step 3. Learn the signs of the locals and think before you speak
Listen to the people around you. Before talking to someone, listen carefully to what they say. If you are greeting a group, quickly listen to their conversation before acting. You could even improve the pronunciation of certain words by listening to how people are talking around you.
- Look at the signs, posters, and advertisements. If most of the public signs are written in German, then you should probably try to speak German. If most of the signs are written in French, try speaking French.
- If you are preparing to meet someone for the first time, consider their name. If his name is Pierre, there is a good chance that he hails from a French-speaking region. If your name is Klaus, then it might be safe to assume that you speak German.
Step 4. Use the proper body tag
If you are meeting someone for the first time, hold out your hand and say hello. If you are a woman and you greet another woman, or a man and you greet a woman, kiss her three times: first offer your right cheek, then the left and again the right. These are not real kisses, just air kisses. If you are a man and you greet a friend, opt for a handshake or a hug. This presentation applies to much of the country, but certain regions (particularly those bordering other countries) may have their own specific label.
Method 2 of 5: Hello in German
Step 1. Use Swiss German, not German
Swiss German is similar to classic German, but there are many local dialects that will make your greeting more understandable. All vowels in these words must be pronounced. For example, if you see ue, üe, or ie, you should pronounce the "u", the "e", and the "i" as separate syllables. If you are writing, keep in mind that in German, all nouns begin with a capital letter.
Step 2. Say "Hello" informally when talking to friends and family
Say "Gruetzi" to one person, or "Gruetzi mittenand" to two or more people. In most German-speaking areas, the word "grüetzi" is equivalent to "hello" in Spanish. Phonetically, it sounds like "gryətsi" or "gru-et-si". You can also say "Guten Tag" in German, which is easy to pronounce and remember. Consider these other informal greetings:
- Hoi / Salü / Sali: “hello”, more informal than saying grüetzi. "Today", "sa-liu", "sa-li".
- Hoi zäme: "hello" when there is more than one person. "Today tza-me."
- Ciao (as in Italian “ciao”, it is pronounced “bye”).
Step 3. Say "Hello" formally
You'll want to use more formal phrases when greeting co-workers and people you don't know well. Most of these greetings are related to the time of day.
"Gueten Morgen!": "Good morning!" It is pronounced "gu-eh-ten mor-guen." In certain areas, the German-speaking Swiss say "Guetä Morgä", as an abbreviation "morgä" or "morge" (it is different in each canton).
This is generally used until noon. In some places in Germany, it is only said until 10 a.m. m
"Guetä Tag!": "Good morning!" It is pronounced "gu-eh-ta tag."
This phrase is generally said between noon and 6 p.m. m
"Gueten Abig": "Good evening!" It is pronounced "gu-eh-ten a-big."
This greeting is generally used after 6 p.m. m
Method 3 of 5: Hello in French
Step 1. Use French
Especially in the western regions of Switzerland, people will understand you if you speak to them in French. Swiss French varies much less from Standard French than Swiss German from Standard German.
Step 2. Say "Bonjour"
This term is the usual and the textbook translation for "hello", and can be used in both formal and casual settings. "Bonjour" is a combination of the term "bon", which means "good", and "jour", "day". The literal translation is "good morning". The word is pronounced "bon-zhur".
Step 3. Say "Salut" for an informal greeting
The "t" is silent, so the word is pronounced "sa-liu". This term translates to an informal "hello".
- Although "salut" is an interjection used to greet people, it is related to the verb "saluer" which in French means "to greet".
- Another informal greeting using this term is "Salut tout le monde!", Which is roughly translated as "Hello everyone!" The term "tout" means "everything" and "le monde" means "the world". This greeting is used only between a group of close friends.
Step 4. Switch to "Bonsoir" in the afternoon
Pronounce it "Bon-swar." The literal translation of this word is "good afternoon", and it is used to say "hello" in the afternoon or evening. The term can be used in formal and informal settings, but is more likely to be heard in formal ones.
- "Bon" means "good", and "soir" means "late."
- To greet crowds of people in the evening you can say "Bonsoir mesdames et messieurs", which means "Good evening ladies and gentlemen". You should pronounce it "bon-swar me-dams e me-sie".
Method 4 of 5: Hello in Italian
Step 1. Use Italian
About 4 to 7% of Swiss citizens speak Italian, especially in the southern cantons (provinces), which border Italy. Swiss who speak Italian are much more likely to speak Swiss German than vice versa. If you are traveling to southern Switzerland, listen to the people around you and read the signs. If it seems like everyone is speaking Italian, then it is probably the best option.
Step 2. Say "Ciao" in informal contexts
The word "ciao" is pronounced as "bye". This is one of the two most common ways to say "hello" in Italian. While it is a common greeting, "ciao" is considered quite informal and is generally used in informal situations or between friends and family.
Note that "ciao" can also mean "goodbye", depending on the context. Make it clear that you are greeting the person and not saying goodbye
Step 3. Greet people with "Hail" in neutral contexts
It is pronounced "sal-ve". Although not as common as "ciao", the term "hail" is more appropriate for unfamiliar people. The most formal way to greet someone is with a greeting for a specific time, but "hail" is still appropriate for most people. To put it into a Spanish speaking perspective, "ciao" is like "hello", while "salve" is closer to "good morning."
Like "ciao", "hail" can also be used to say "goodbye", depending on the context
Step 4. Greet according to the specific time
"Buongiorno" and other time-based greetings are considered the most formal way to greet someone. However, you can also use these phrases with friends and family. As with many other Italian greetings, greetings based on time of day can also mean "goodbye", depending on the context.
- Say "Buongiorno" in the morning. This phrase translates to "good morning" or "good morning". It is pronounced "buon yior-no."
- Say "Buon pomeriggio" in the afternoon. It is pronounced "buon po-me-rit-yo." This phrase can be used after noon to say "good afternoon", as a greeting or goodbye. Note that you could still hear buongiorno in the afternoon, but buon pomeriggio is slightly more common and more accurate. "Buon pomeriggio" is much more formal than "buongiorno".
- Say "Buonasera" at night. After 4 pm, the most courteous way to greet or say goodbye to someone is with "buonasera." It is pronounced "buo-na-se-ra."
Method 5 of 5: Hello in Romansh
Step 1. Use Romansh
Romansh is an ancient language, spoken by less than 1% of the Swiss. About 48,000 of them live in the south-eastern district of the canton Graubünden. Most Romansh speakers also speak Swiss German and other languages, but locals may be impressed if you speak to them in their native language.
- Romansh is also known as Romanesque, Romance, or Romanesque.
- About half of all native Romansh speakers have migrated to the industrialized German-speaking cities in northern Switzerland. For this reason, Zurich has become the city with the highest number of Romansh speakers. However, most of the inhabitants of Romansh-speaking cities habitually speak German for convenience.
- This language comes from "Vulgar Latin" or "People's Latin", with influences from the Etruscans, Celts, and other languages spoken by the first settlers in the mountain valleys of what are now Grisons and South Tyrol. Italy. Romansh was included as a national language of Switzerland in 1938. Therefore, base your pronunciations on Latin pronunciations.
Step 2. Use "Allegra", "Ciao", or "Tgau" for an informal greeting
- "Allegra" is pronounced "a-leg-ru."
- "Ciao" is pronounced "bye."
- "Tgau" is pronounced "gaw."
Step 3. Greet according to the specific time
As with other Swiss national languages, time-specific Romansh greetings tend to be the most formal. Use these types of greetings in formal contexts and when greeting people you have not met before.
- "Bun di" means "good morning". Pronounce it "bun di".
- "Buna saira" means "good afternoon" or "good evening". It is pronounced "bun-a sera".
- Most Swiss Germans rejoice when they hear someone try to speak Swiss German and respond with a hearty "Danke vielmal", but continue in English if necessary.
- Try to find out what language your interlocutor speaks to avoid expressing yourself in the wrong language!
- Remember that almost all Swiss can speak English quite well, especially in big cities.