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Swiss French (French: français de suisse) is the variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandy. French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland, the others being German, Italian, and Romansch. As of 2012, around 1.8 million people in the country (22.6% of the population) spoke French as their primary language and around 29.1% of the population has working knowledge of French.
The French language spoken in Switzerland differs very little from that of France or Belgium, with minor and mostly lexical differences. This is in contrast to differences between Standard German and Swiss German, in which differences create mutual unintelligibility between speakers of the two forms to the point that they are considered different languages.
The Swiss variant of French is characterized by some terms adopted from Franco-Provençal, a language formerly spoken largely across the alpine communities of Romandie and maintained by a minority today, as well as expressions borrowed from Swiss and Standard German. While Standard French is taught in schools and used in government, media, and business, there is no uniform vernacular form of French among the different cantons of Switzerland. This is exemplified by the usage of borrowed terms from German in regions bordering German-speaking communities to their complete absence by the French border area around Geneva.
Differences between Swiss French and standard French
Many differences between Swiss French and French are due to the different administrative and political systems between Switzerland and France. Some of its distinctive lexical features are shared with Belgian French (and some also with Quebec French), such as:
- The use of the word septante for seventy and nonante for ninety as opposed to soixante-dix (literally 'sixty-ten') and quatre-vingt-dix (literally 'four twenties-ten') of the "vigesimal" French counting system.
- The use of the word déjeuner for "breakfast" ("lunch" in France, which uses petit déjeuner for "breakfast"), and of the words le dîner and le souper for "lunch" and "dinner" respectively (in French of France, déjeuner and dîner respectively), much like the varying uses of dinner and supper throughout the English-speaking world.
Other examples which are not shared with Belgian French:
- The word huitante is sometimes used for eighty instead of quatre-vingts (literally 'four twenties'), especially in the cantons of Vaud, Valais and Fribourg; the term octante (from the Latin octaginta) is now considered defunct.
- The word canton has a different meaning in each country.
- In France, a post office box is called a boite postale (BP), whereas in Switzerland, it is called a case postale (CP).
Examples of words that differ between Swiss French and Standard French
|Swiss French||Standard French||Translation|
|attique||dernier étage||last floor|
|bancomat||guichet automatique bancaire||ATM|
|biffer||rayer/barrer quelque chose d'écrit||to scratch/delete|
|bobet||bête or stupide||stupid|
|bonnard||sympa or bien||nice|
|borne hydrante||bouche d'incendie||fire hydrant|
|mascogner||tricher aux examens||cheat during exams|
|carnotzet||cave à vin/cellier/fumoir||Wine cellar; however these expression can seldomly be found in French places close to Switzerland.|
|gymnase (Vaud) or collège (Genève)||lycée||high-school|
|cornet||sac en plastique||plastic bag|
|dent de lion||pissenlit||dandelion|
|s'encoubler||se prendre les pieds dans quelque chose/trébucher||to trip over|
|s'énuquer||se briser la nuque||to break one's neck|
|étude d'avocats||cabinet d'avocats||law firm|
|faire la noce||faire la fête||to party; however these expression can also be found in Standard French even though it is probably less used or used predominantly by old people|
|frouz||les Français||people from France - French|
|un fonds||un terrain or un champs||a field|
|maman de jour||assistante maternelle||day care assistant|
|maturité||baccalauréat||high-school final examination|
|natel||(téléphone) portable||mobile phone|
|nom de bleu!||nom de dieu!||in the name of god!/god dammit!|
|pive||pomme de pin||conifer cone|
|Procès verbal d'examen (PV)||bulletin de note||report card|
|régie||agence immobilière||real estate agent|
|uni (short word for université)||fac (short word for faculté)||university|