Switzerland's mysterious fourth language
Monday, July 9, 2018
Posted by: Dana Walker
Discurras ti rumantsch?
Despite Romansh being one of Switzerland’s four national languages, less than 0.5% percent of Swiss can answer that question – ‘Do you speak Romansh?’ – with a ‘yes’.
Romansh is a Romance language indigenous to Switzerland’s largest canton, Graubünden, located in the south-eastern corner of the country. In the last century, the number of Romansh speakers has fallen 50% to a meagre 60,000. Travellers in the canton can still see Romansh on street signs, or hear it in restaurants when they’re greeted with ‘Allegra!’ (Welcome in). But nearly 40% of Romansh speakers have left the area for better job opportunities in places like Zürich and it’s rare that you will see or hear Romansh outside the canton. In such a small country, can a language spoken by just a sliver of the population survive, or is it as doomed as the dinosaur and dodo?