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Resources for learning Swiss-German

Swiss-German presents a challenge, not least as there is hardly anything in the way of teaching material for it.

I have written about the challenges in learning Swiss-German here.

Dropdown: Do you need to learn it in the first place?

Do you need Swiss-German if you are a tourist?

Nope.

If you want to make a little effort then greet others with Grüezi (or Grüezi mitenand if there are multiple people).

Do you need Swiss-German if you move here?

Strictly speaking no.

High-German will get you through everything you need to do (and English will get you through almost everything if you really can’t be bothered or struggle with German).

Swiss-German will certainly make interactions and understanding what is going on simpler sometimes, and it will certainly help you feel integrated, but it will never be essential in daily life.

If and when should you learn it?

If you don’t speak German already than concentrate on High-German. You can also spend some time working on understanding Swiss-German and picking up words, but understanding standard German should really be your goal at first.

Learning Swiss-German over High-German makes no sense. It over-specialises you to a language that only really works in one small region (my go to comparison is English vs Scotts-English). This maybe depends on your needs – if you are just moving to one area and never planning to go elsewhere then Swiss-German makes sense. Many guest-workers or refugees coming to Switzerland only learnt Swiss-German for example. But generally if you have the luxury of movement and a choice then High-German is far more practical. The Swiss are invariably delighted when you take the time to learn High-German, and any Swiss-German words you can throw in are a bonus.

The only real problem with this is many Swiss-German speakers are not comfortable speaking High-German and go straight to English if they get a chance. Which makes learning and using High-German in Switzerland somewhat tricky at times (I have written about this in a previous post about moving to Switzerland).

Germans I know who have lived here for a number of years have slowly picked it up and included elements in how they talk. It is certainly appreciated when they make the effort to learn bits.


Section 1: Dedicated teaching material

Resources dedicated to teaching you Swiss-German.

There are a number of websites and Youtube channels which I have not included because they do not go beyond just covering a few basic words and phrases.

Name/SourceNotesCost
Dictionary
Idiotikona Swiss-German dictionary project that has been ongoing since 1880 and should soon be finished. A good way to translate from Swiss to High-German, though by now some words might well be outdated.Free
Zuri.netZüri-Deutsch to High-GermanFree
Berndeutsch.chBern-Deutsch to High-German.Free
Walliserdialekt.chWalliser-Deutsch to High-GermanFree
Schwyzerdütsch für AnfängerOne of a small number of physical dictionaries. There are others like from Duden, but none are very big or truely extensive.20 CHF
Textbook
VoCHabular projectThey have a free ebook to download for self-study (see their [download section]( https://vochabular.ch/downloads/ for audio files too)). You can also order a physical copy of the book if you wish to support them. Zürich dialekt.Free
BärndütschText book with audio CD for Bern-Deutsch.44 CHF
BergliThe publisher has a few lighthearted books about Swiss-German in German or English which might make for an easy starting point but do not go very deep.Varies
Schwyzertüütsch: Praktische Sprachlehre des Schweizerdeutschen (1981)Old but seems to be respected still.$25 on Amazon
Audio
PimsleurLimited. Only has 10 lessons (5 hours in time). Being released in 2006 it is unlikely that they are about to rush out anything more.$42
Easy Swiss GermanPodcast on Spotify and Itunes. Basel dialektFree
Swiss and ChipsA podcast about life in Switzerland as an English speaking expat, every episode talks about 1 Swiss-German word/phrase and some episodes talk about Swiss German and how to learn itFree
Taught Course
ClassroomThere are a number of taught classes if you are in Switzerland: Migro Klubschule, Alpha Sprachschule, Bellingua, Berlitz, Flying teachers, and also see if your local Volkshochschule or Berufsschule has classesVaries
Swiss German OnlineSee also their free Youtube channel25-45 CHF per month
Schweizerdeutsch-lernen.chIt now seems to be dead as of 2021.x
Youtube
Learn Swiss GermanFree to watch content from the Swiss German Online website listed above.
One of the best resources with consistent and high output.
Free
Swiss German for BeginnersNew but active, ran by redditor /u/AndreaMoMO. Aargau dialektFree
Apps
Welli Zahl..
Swiss German..
MemriseThere are a few user made courses, but there is no sound and the content is very limitedFree
AnkiLimited to just a few setsFree
Other
TandemSprachtandem.ch has options for Swiss-German, and if you are in Switzerland there are various weekly events in bigger towns and cities run by different groups.Varies
Table 1: Swiss German teaching materials.

Section 2: Swiss-German media

This should give you a good grounding in where to find things like music, film, etc. . There are too many individual shows or broadcasts to give a complete list, but I have provided a few notable examples.

Much Swiss media is made in High-German or switches between High and Swiss (or some musicians who have yet to break out beyond the German speaking world still just sing in English). I have just included examples that are all or mostly Swiss-German.

Type/GenreTitleTopic/NotesUpdated, Length
Children’s media
AudioGlobi
AudioChasperli
AudioDe Meischter Eden
AudioSRF Hörspiel Kids
AudioAudibleA small selection of children’s stories, not worth subscribing for if you are not already a member
TV (SRF)
These and more should all be easy to find at SRF.ch or on the SRF youtube channels
Swiss NewsSchweiz AktuellDomestic Swiss newsMon-Fri, 20 min.
Swiss PoliticsArenaPolitical talk showWeekly, 75 min.
DocWunderlandWalking around the country showing off the landscape and talking to people doing Swiss things. Part of “Bi di Lüt”, a collection of shows that focuses on the Swiss people and so makes a very good source for Swiss-German.
DocUnser DorfAnother part of Bi di Lüt. Each series follows the life of residents of a village – often quite hard to understand as it means farmers from remote regions talking amongst themselves.
EntertainmentThe Jass showPeople and celebrities playing the traditional Swiss card game.
TV (non-SRF)
VariousLocal broadcasters put out news and shows in local dialects TeleBasel etc
Various Play SuisseEssentially the Swiss version of NetFlix. Free to use and has a mix of TV and Film in various Swiss languages. Not all of the German content is in Swiss-German.
Films
ComedyDie Schweizermacher
FamilySchellen-UrsliFree to watch on PlaySuisse
DramaDie Göttliche OrdnungFree to watch on PlaySuisse
Drama/ComedyDie HerbstzeitlosenFree to watch on PlaySuisse
FamilyHeidi, and Heidi and yet more HeidiHeidiHeidi
Youtube
History/CultureZeidgenosseCloser to Swiss Standard-German than Swiss-German, but very well done videos on Swiss history/culture and information on upcoming referendums.
ComedyLionel (Ask Switzerland)Short comedic interviews with people from around the country. Mostly deals with talking to teenagers who speak their own special version of the language.Varies, 5 mins
Lets PlaySuper Swiss BrosDead and gone?
Lets PlayGrischaYeti
TeenSevthealman
Teennathistyle
TeenMaelo Romani
Radio
VariousWikipedia list of broadcasters in Switzerland most can be streamed onlineLive
VariousSRF radio channels covering a range of music stylesLive
QuizSRF 3 ABCA 50 second quick fire quiz where questions are posed in Swiss-German. Played at 7:50am on weekdays, you can use the SRF player to jump back if you missed it.Live
Podcasts (SRF)
These should all be easy to find at SRF.ch or on Spotify etc:
News (local)Regional JournalLocal news and issues from different areas of German speaking Switzerland. There are various versions that cover certain regions, or diagonal which covers them all.Weekdays, 4-25 mins
ChatForumDebate on a particular topic with listeners calling inWeekly, 50 mins
ReportDoppelpunktIndepth report on a particular topicWeekly, 50 mins
SchnabelweidAbout language
PlaysHörspielRadio plays, often entirely in Swiss-German50 mins
Quiz3 vor 5Weekdays, 5 mins
History/CultureSRF 1 Mundart
History/CultureSchwiiz und duetlichThe origin and meaning of Swiss family names
History/CultureAud den spuren eures names
Podcasts (non-SRF)
VariousRadio1.ch has a number of podcasts
Chat/interviewsBier ab vierInactive but a long back catalogue, 1 hour
Video gamesOneMoreLevelTalking about video gamesBiweekly(ish), 40-60 mins
Swiss historyNico & ZackTalking about historic Swiss figures. The content is interesting, but the recording quality is poor so it can be a challenge to follow.Inactive but a long back catalogue, 30-60 mins
FilmsOutCast
InterviewGiacobbodcastMonthly(ish), 1 hour.
TechNerdfunkWeekly, 30-40 mins
Books and reading
VariousYou can find a small selection of written Swiss-German books by looking for Mundart at book shopsEG: at Lüthy and Exlibris and Orell Füssli
VariousThere are also some Mundart publishersZytglogge Verlag and Cosmo Verlag and Weber Verlag and Menschen Versand Verlag
WikipediaThe Alemannisch language WikipediaCovers a number of pages, especially those of interest to Switzerland and southern Germany
Swiss chatReddit subs/r/BUENZLI and /r/schwiiz

Music

The list below is mostly more modern music (a surprising amount of which is rap/hip hop). There is also a bottomless pit of Folk Schlager, and whatever self-aware mock-schlager Trauffer is.

ArtistGenreSongs
Züri WestRockGöteborg, Fingt ds Glück eim?
Patent OchsnerRockAusklaar
HechtRock-PopCharlotta, Kawasaki
PlüschRock-PopHeimweh, Häbs guet, Irgendeinisch
KunzPop-Folk?Hei zo der, Marie, Vierwaldstättersee
Troubas KaterxLatvia
SpanRockStossverchehr
GeorgeRock-pop?Früschi Luft
HalunkePop?Level7, Las Vegas Sydney Kapstadt
Mani Matter?I han es Zündhölzli azündt,
Sina?Ich schwöru, Wa du bisch
BLIGGRapUs Mänsch
Lo and LeducRap?Mis Huus dis Huus, 079
NemoRap?Ke Bock
Marc SwayRap?Din Engel
DodoRap?Zürimaa
ZID?Meh, OMG
Subzonic?Titelgschicht
Du Luca?Schön
BaschiPopOh wie schad
Dabu Fantastic?Angelina
Hedgehog?Min Plan
Müslüm?Süpervitamin
Steff la Cheffe?He ke Ahnig
Florian Ast?I Mache D’Ouge Zue
Kutti MC?Zum Glück
Phenomden?Stah Da
Schwellheim?Musik für di
Stiller Has?Fäderliecht
Würzel 5RapHie
PVPRapE Stei A Di Stadt

And more: Mash, Hebdide, Stuberein, Stiller Has, Faber, Brändhard, Göla….

Misc