The French-speaking part of Switzerland is shown in green on this map.
Map of the Arpitan language area, historical language spoken in Romandie, with place names in arpitan and historic political divisions.
Swiss French (French: français de suisse) is the variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandie. 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, it should be noted that 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 Latinoctaginta) 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
guichet automatique bancaire
rayer/barrer quelque chose d'écrit
bête or stupide
sympa or bien
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)
sac en plastique
dent de lion
se prendre les pieds dans quelque chose/trébucher
to trip over
se briser la nuque
to break one's neck
faire la noce
faire la fête
to party; however these expression can also be found in Standard French eventhough it is probably less used or used predominantly by old people