Learning local language

I’m honestly a bit baffled by some people’s lack of motivation to learn the local language.
I wouldn’t waste any time starting if there was a possibility of me staying longer than a year. To me that’s part of the journey, the culture and most importantly the key to integration. :slight_smile:


It’s a fair comment but off-topic, we are discussing here the requirements and not the willingness of people to learn the language.

I give you few examples of why people may not want to get to B1 level to obtain a C

  • American executive expat in his / her forties. Work for a MNC and was offered an opportunity to build a whole function here. Everyday English at work and expat family at home. Love Switzerland and would like to stay here long term. Realistically time to learn to B1 from zero is very challenging
  • European family from France and Italy, working in English everyday at work and speak English home. They speak 2 languages out of 3 of Switzerland. Plan to stay here long term and perhaps relocating to French or Italian part of CH because of language. Zero knowledge of German. Why having such hard requirement?
  • totally different. Is it like in Saudi or Dubai or Qatar they would ask you Arabic test, would you do it when you offered an international position to go there in the first place? It would just make the country less competitive

What I am saying is each case is different. Of course we need to foster integration but what is critical is to remain competitive. Top talent can work anywhere, and for Swiss tax payers is best it works in Switzerland….

Then if we talk about jobs that have lower tax value added to the country, then do what you want. But competitiveness is important in the world today

Edit: And lastly, for citizenship, I agree. You must speak basic local language but for permanent stay, I don’t think it makes a favor to Switzerland to be competitive.


The examples you are quoting are covered by the permit B. To have permit B, AFAIK, there is no language requirement. If you are a good specialist, sure, you are welcome to work as long as you are needed.

Now, permit C is for someone who wants to settle in the country permanently and a half way to getting nationality. In this case, I think a requirement to show proficiency in at least one national language is reasonable. However I agree, the requirement to know the local language of the specific commune seems too strict and unfair. Nobody expects a Romond moving to Deutschschweiz to speak reasonable German (many won’t) and there are definitely no language test requirement in this situation.

I think that this rule of knowing local language might be attacked on this ground.


So all is technical and very clearly defined about language to get C/passport. Just never seen stated how many billions you need in pocket to drop the rule :smiley: just kidding…
But I guess you all are addressing those long term expats that coast along without language/integration or those who just thread needle to get C/passport and then forget all.
I have few points myself (does it mean I’m one of those above? no, still on B permit and can express myself in “Deutch” so give me a benefit of the doubt : ), but in nutshell I think it’s related to Hoch Deutch/dialects peculiarities and few cultural aspects.
Anyone from French/Italian parts can confirm that same issue of “non integration/language” is as strong there as in German part?

I agree, that it’s important for Switzerland to stay competitive and therefore give expats a chance to get a job.

IMHO if you’d like to stay here long term, it make sense to some extend, to become a part of society.
Achieving B1 is not thaat difficult within 5 years, if you want to.

Looks like it’s even easier (A2) if you wait for 10 years:

Wow, does that even exist?

I 100% would learn Arabic in that case.

Why should it matter how much someone earns or what job they do?
It should be the same rules for everyone, like it is now. :slight_smile:

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As they say at Rosetta Stone: „German is widely considered among the easier languages for native English speakers to pick up“. English is a Germanic language. And even for French, it shares loads of the more „complicated“ and technical vocabulary with that (maybe more so than with German).

It’s not that hard.

Again, if you speak English at home, German‘s not that difficult.

That said, unless they’re very educated and/or have both been working for English-speaking companies, I doubt they‘d speak English at home. Given that they are both native speakers of Romance languages, it’s probably French or Italian.

Exactly - they won‘t have a problem staying in Switzerland on a B permit.

But they’re Swiss citizens. Just as you can be an American without speaking English (by simply virtue of being born there - even though sometimes it looks more like a curse to me).

PS: To keep in mind…

Since you were referring to the case of German in particular, you don‘t even need a B1 (which is sufficient for naturalisation).

Zurich requires A2 speaking and A1 in writing for a C permit. So does Berne.
And that’s after a stay of („normally“) 10 years.

:point_right:t2: Not an overly hard requirement, I reckon.


I am going back to learning german after a year break for doing a certification.

My strategy is going to be intense courses, 2h every day (Mo-Fri) which is supposed to get from from A2 to B1 in 6 months. If you guys have any tips I would be happy to get them.

Context: Portuguese, speak Portuguese, Spanish and English, speak Portuguese at home and English at the office (where 98% of colleagues are not swiss)


Doing things I’d do anyway in the language I’m trying to learn is my usual way to go: setting the parameters on my devices/browsers, playing video games, watching movies/TV, frequenting message boards, going to festivals/for activities in places speaking that language instead of in those that are in my comfort zone (for German, Italian and/or French, those requiring a flight would be harder to achieve), listening to radio/audio books on my way to work and so on.

It worked well for English but I have still a way to go for German.

I’d try to get in contact with neighbours that speak German.
From my experience, I need to hear properly spoken language in order to learn. In these courses, often times people still speak in their language or in English, because it’s more convenient to them.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still pick up a lot there, especially grammar related things. But to train understanding and speaking, I always improved faster, when I went to talk to native speakers.

I also second what @Wolverine said.

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Learning languages is simply a numbers game. The more times you are exposed to a language, the more quickly you will learn it. With English, people are exposed from the time they are baby’s whether they choose to or not. But with all other languages, you generally have to deliberately choose to expose yourself.

Things which have worked for me:

  • Make it a habit to get entertainment in the target language only. Your brain learns best when you are relaxing. If you stick to watching movies, listening to music, etc. in the target language only, you will learn very quickly. It may seem like work at first, but when it becomes your only source of entertainment, it will start feeling like fun. I first learned German in around 1 month when I was 15 on a trip to Germany when I had no entertainment but TV, and TV was only in German in those days. Same with Spanish, as when I lived in Spain there was nothing available in English.
  • Insist that people speak to you in the target language. Do not revert to English as a lingua franca. This is probably THE most important advice for anyone serious about learning a language.
  • Use Duolinguo. This app is free of charge, and I have found the results of using it 15-30 minutes a day while commuting have been phenomenal. There are probably other similar apps which are also good.

Sure, if you plan to fully integrate and e.g., enjoy the local culture, there’s no way around learning the language (and in particular the local dialect, in the swiss-german cantons). But many people are absolutely fine being here for some years (or even decades) without learning the language because a) they can function almost equally well without it b) they can continue “living” in their culture by joining the (often large, think of Italians or Portuguese) local communities. So I would not judge anybody harshly if they, even after some years, can’t speak proper switzerduuuutch.

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Neither would I. Actually I have to admit that there have been times when I lived in countries without learning much of the local language at all. This is actually very common among English-speaking expats, in particular. In retrospect I regret that, because I believe I would have had a richer experience if I had made the effort. But one can only concentrate on so many things at once, so it’s normal to set priorities.

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I’m pretty sure that no one expects them to speak Swiss German after 5 years. That’s a whole new level.
We’re talking about A2 or B1 speaking/understanding of German here. :slight_smile:

Yeah, a lot of them expect everybody to speak their language. Unfortunately even without asking whether it’s okay to speak English.
Not the best of manners IMHO, but I guess everyone has their own opinion in that regard. :slight_smile:

I‘d argue that understanding/speaking Swiss German shows a higher degree of integration into local society (in German-speaking Switzerland) than taking some standard variety German classes for test preparation. Because it actually requires you to interact with Swiss people and culture.

Yet I am not sure it is properly reflected and rewarded as an integration criterion.
Does a language test even exist that properly rewards competency in Swiss German (dialect), beyond more than a few written words?

From what I have been told by friends who obtained C permits and/or Swiss citizenship, speaking and understanding Swiss-German is a definite plus when you apply for Swiss citizenship the standard way (via your municipality) in German-speaking Switzerland. The interview will be held in Swiss-German, and having to shift it to high-German will not improve your chances.

I imagine if you use the new simplified application via the canton, it may be more about documents/diplomas. But I can’t speak to that since I don’t yet know anyone who has gone through that process.

Probably true for smaller places. Large cities (e.g. Zürich) do it by the book with a lot less place for subjectivity.

E.g. https://www.zh.ch/content/dam/zhweb/bilder-dokumente/themen/migration-integration/einbuergerung/eo_handbuch_einbuergerungen.pdf Einbürgerungsgespräch: Keine Prüfung im Einbürgerungsgespräch

So they clearly say that the certificate is what decides. IIRC there’s other places in the handbook that clearly state that not knowing swiss german can’t be a reason for refusing.

I believe @Daniel wasn‘t referring to required proof of language proficiency per se - but to the „softer“, more subjective criteria of being integrated.

They are not supposed to and won‘t test your language skills in the naturalisation interview. But they may ask you if and how much social contact you’re having to Swiss people - and being able to speak Swiss German kind of pre-empts that question and will likely let interviewers assume you do.

For what it’s worth, they didn’t ask me the dreaded „which clubs or societies did you join - and if none, why not?“ question in that interview.

(Sure, given the time spent and local knowledge displayed, I could have boasted about joining Mustachian Post, but…)

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… but that’s a forum in English, apparently held by a Canadian, which could arguably be described as dedicated to gaming the system with some topics dedicated to plans for going abroad to live with the money once it’s collected?

No argument about the local knowledge displayed and time spent, though, it’s a pleasure having you here.