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Swiss German vs. German - what is the difference?

If you have ever been to the German-speaking part of Switzerland, or have contemplated moving there, then you have probably heard about it – Swiss German.

Now you might be wondering….

Is Swiss German an official language?

The answer is no! Swiss German is not an official language, but refers to all possible dialects spoken in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

In the following map of Switzerland the German-speaking part of Switzerland is highlighted in green.

Map of the german speaking part of Switzerland

What about Swiss High German or Swiss Standard German then?

Swiss High German in turn is the official written language in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It is an official language because it follows certain grammatical and linguistic rules that are clearly defined. It is taught in schools and used in books, laws, regulations and newspapers.

What is the difference between Swiss High German and German?

Swiss High German is very similar to the Standard German spoken in Germany. However, there are a few differences. One of the most important is that the German letter ß is replaced by ss in Switzerland. 

For example:  Germany:   street – Straße

Switzerland: street – Strasse


There are also some differences in vocabulary.

Let me show you a few

So, what’s the bottom line in terms of the telc/Goethe test?

Telc test, Goethe exam and residence permit - which German is required?

If you are taking the telc or Goethe exam in Switzerland your exam will take place in Swiss High German. As stated above, it is one of Switzerland’s official languages and very similar to Standard German.


Now some of you might be wondering… 

Should you learn Swiss German anyway?


Here’s the deal:

You do not need to speak Swiss German to communicate in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. However, most locals do speak Swiss German, so it definitely is beneficial to be able to understand the dialect. After all, language is a lot more than just a mere means of communication. Language is culture. So if you learn or speak Swiss German you will automatically be able to connect better with the Swiss. Having said that, I definitely recommend learning Swiss High German first. It will be much easier to learn first a language with rules to rely on and then take on Swiss German from there. 

Thank you for reading my article! Drop a comment if you liked it or if you still have a question.

Hear you soon,


1 Comment

  1. Great article!

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