Multilingualism

Switzerland is divided into four distinct language regions. However, many people speak several languages.

Street signs in French and German
Street signs in French and German in the bilingual town Biel/Bienne. © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

Six out of ten adults in Switzerland regularly use more than one language.

The most commonly spoken foreign languages are English, Portuguese, Spanish, Serbian, Croatian and Albanian.

Four of Switzerland's 26 cantons are officially multilingual: Bern (German-French), Fribourg (French-German), Valais (French-German) and Graubünden (German-Romansh-Italian). The cities of Biel and Fribourg are bilingual (German and French).

German, French and Italian are the official languages of the Confederation. Romansh, although a national language, is used by the federal authorities only when communicating with Romansh speakers. All official federal documents (legislation, reports, websites, brochures and building signage) must appear in German, French and Italian.

The Federal Office of Culture has chief responsibility for promoting multilingualism. The Federal Languages Act governs the use of the official languages of the Confederation, the promotion of multilingualism within the administration, support for multilingual cantons and the promotion of Romansh and Italian languages and cultures.