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Minorities and bilingualism

Newspapers in different languages at a kiosk (in new window)

Newspapers in different languages at a kiosk© Christoph Balsiger / swissinfo

The 35,000 or so Swiss whose mother tongue is Rumantsch all speak German too. They have no other choice: they form only a small language enclave within the Swiss-German region. The Swiss with Italian as their mother tongue also cannot be content with Italian alone. The numerical and economic superiority of the German-speaking region of Switzerland increasingly means that Italian-speakers are forced to speak German if they want their region to have a say and survive economically.

Research has shown that earnings are considerably affected by a worker's mother tongue, with Italian speakers at a particular disadvantage.

An investigation into the proportion of non-German speakers employed in federal offices and agencies conducted by the Helvetia Latina association in 2001 revealed that German was the usual working language: 96% of the translations done for these offices were of documents written in German.

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