The Swiss Connection

Translators outside of Switzerland may be reluctant to accept translation work for Swiss clients because they have heard that the German, French and Italian used here differs considerably from the standard language. One thing is the spoken language, notably the use of dialect in German-speaking Switzerland. Written language, however, is a different matter. The country’s official languages are standard German, French and Italian. And they do not materially differ from their counterparts in Germany, France or Italy. Certainly not in terms of grammar.

Let’s look at German. Yes, there are subtle differences in the use of cases, in spelling – most notably the lack of German “Eszett” (ß) – or in terms of punctuation, but those are few and far between. But what about vocabulary? Do the Swiss not use strange expressions for all kinds of things? Well, probably not more than people of Bremen, Munich or Vienna, especially when using technical language (with the notable exception of legal vocabulary). While the Swiss may say Velo instead of Fahrrad or innert instead of innerhalb and even Obligation instead of Rentenpapier, these variants make up a very small percentage of any text to be translated. Moreover, many clients actually want us to avoid such Swissisms. The same holds true for French and Italian. In French-speaking Switzerland, it is the CEO and not PDG that runs the company and the syndic rather than the maire that resides in the town hall. Also when counting it is septante and huitante rather than soixante-dix and quatre-vingts. The Swiss Italians use a Natel and not a cellulare and are on the lookout for azioni rather than offerte speciali.

In order to help our translators avoid the potential pitfalls of the Swiss lingo, we offer language-specific reference material on our community portal that explains the most important aspects of language in Switzerland. Furthermore, each translation job includes a client-specific guide listing their preferences in terms of style, vocabulary and grammar.

Many of the French, German and Italian translators in our global community regularly work for Swiss clients and find it no more difficult than working in their home market.

So, don’t be afraid: enjoy being part of Switzerland’s long history of linguistic diversity.

Contact your Community Management Business Partner, Sandrine Charpentier, to add a Swiss locale to your profile.