Swiss German (Pimsleur Instant Conversation) Audio CD – Audiobook, 27 Feb 2006
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The Swiss federation is composed of 23 cantons. About 65% of the Swiss population speak Swiss German....
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I learned German while living in southern Germany for two years as a Mormon missionary. Because my ancestry on my mother's side is Swiss, I have always been very interested in the Swiss dialects. But it can be difficult to be taken seriously as a speaker of Swiss German without reaching a certain level of proficiency first. For example, in my case, when people understand that I understand standard German, they tend to automatically shift to standard German when they speak to me. I think this course is a good start to reaching a level where one can actually begin to participate in Swiss society in the local language.
As others have pointed out, it's true that Swiss differs from canton to canton and, in some cases, from village to village. Nevertheless, people from different areas of Switzerland can and do communicate with each other all the time. And, sure, sometimes they laugh at each others' expressions. Na und? That's all part of the fun.
I particularly recommend this course to people who already speak German and are interested in getting a better handle on the Swiss dialects, but I don't think it's necessary to know German to benefit from these lessons.
Finally, hats off to Pimsleur for being willing to invest in languages like Swiss German and Ojibwe even though there will probably never be a big market for these products.
First of all, the positives: It's great that Pimsleur makes a program for Swiss German. I've looked and looked, and trust me, there really isn't much competition. This is because Swiss German is sort of a regional dialect of German, but, I also understand that the language varies considerably between regions in Switzerland as well, and maybe that discourages other big name language software companies from even making the attempt. There have been some complaints that you will only learn Swiss German as spoken by a native of Zurich, but, oh well, at least it's a launching point--it's somewhere to begin. The standardized German spoken in Switzerland is Hochdeutsch.
I'm also a big fan of the Pimsleur format mainly because I've learned most of the languages I speak in my car, which is very convenient. If I couldn't learn in my car, I don't think I could do it. I find that in my car, I can be very focused for a couple reasons. One, I am alone, so I won't be distracted. Two, I'm not self-conscious of driving other people in my house crazy while I repeat phrases over and over again in order to get the pronunciation just right. Three, it actually relaxes me while I drive, unlike radio--and music gets boring, so I'm much less prone to road rage because I don't really care whether people are cutting me off, cutting into my lane (while I'm in it!), or doing whatever other people do that piss me off. I'm learning a language! It's no wonder to me that I've learned so many languages. As long as I drive alone, I will be learning new languages.
Now, the negatives. I can't really fault the program itself. If you're used to Pimsleur, the format is just the same as the others. If it works for you, it works for you. It works for me. The only real problem that I have with it is that it it stops at the 1/3 point compared to their other programs. So, I really feel like I'm just getting warmed up and started and the program is over already. Now, I'm back to scouring the internet to try to find out ways to learn more Swiss German.
Why do I want to learn Swiss German if standard German is the language that every one there knows--besides English, French, Italian and Romansch? Well, because one of the joys of learning a new language is actually getting to use it. I'm hoping that my chances of actually speaking something besides English in Switzerland will increase. If you know German, it's a good thing because you will be able to read signs and get around, but the Swiss don't actually speak German on the street. They speak Switzerdeutsch, which sounds like German if your friend with the thickest Scottish brogue you've ever heard tried to speak it.
Imagine if you weren't a native speaker of English, and then you learn standard English hoping to be able to speak to people in Scotland. You'd be lost. I'm a native speaker of English and when you get a few Scots together talking amongst themselves, it's impossible to understand them, even if they are speaking "English" as well--and what they're speaking isn't even considered to be a "dialect." Trust me, I'm in a bagpipe band and I've been around Scots from Scotland. I understand Germans much better, and they're not even speaking my native language.
But, also, Swiss are so multilingual, they will be able to tell as soon as you open your mouth where you are from, no matter how good your German accent is, and they will just unconsciously start speaking your language. This is a WONDERFULLY nice thing to do for a tourist who wants information. But, if you want to practice German as a nonnative, who must have some sort of telltale English accent however slight, you won't get to do it. They must figure in about a tenth of a second that you have an English accent to your German, and they don't really want to speak German. They figure that since you aren't speaking Switzerdeutsch, or even trying, that you can't speak that at all, and so they will just start talking in English to you, and then they get to practice English and you don't get to practice anything.
I'm hoping that I'll actually get to speak Switzerdeutsch while I'm there.
But, I've completed this program and, while I now know how to introduce myself, say I understand Swiss German or ask someone is they understand Swiss German, greet people, ask their names, where they are from and where they work tell people that I am from New York or Boston (but not the USA)order coffee, mineral water, beer, veal cutlets and hashed brown potatoes, say good-bye and "good-bye all," "it was nice to be with you," "your welcome," and be able to say the numbers for two, ten, fifty and how to say 1:30, the program is over.
There's a little more that you will know, but not much. I was done with the CD's in a week, but I also speak German, so that made it a lot easier for me in some ways--I didn't feel like I was starting from scratch.
It is definitely worth it, and I consider the time and money I spent on the program well spent. I'm just ready to begin the second part of three parts and there isn't one. So now I'm hunting again for more resources.
The program is easy and well done. The ONLY shortcoming is there are only ten lessons. It gets you through all the basics and a fairly large vocabulary. You will be able to introduce yourself, get a meal, lodging and find directions and understand the answers. Don't look for much more beyond the basics. A pity but there are really alternatives without moving to Switzerland as the language is a spoken only language.