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Communication - Language of the local, Language of the international

2nd Blog: by Bernhard Fankhauser - Tuesday, 17 January 2023, 4:22 PM
When I arrived in Vaduz, I was surprised by the fact that in the dorm as well as the university the main language used is English. Therefore, I only got to know the local dialect in the first week of university and I must say it was hard to discern original Liechtenstein dialect from the Swiss dialect of Grisson and Appenzell.

But after a few days I got used to it and was able to join in on conversations. The dialect that was easiest for me to understand must have been the Vorarlberger dialect of the people from Bregenz and Feldkirch, as I myself grew up spending a lot of time in the greater area of Innsbruck. With getting used to the dialect I also got to know a lot of new words like “luagga” or the different meanings and usages of words I had known before such as “schaffa”, which for me always meant being able to do a task – like I am able to do something or I can do something – whereas “schaffa” in Liechtenstein means to work or to still have to do work.

Another aspect that caught my attention was their seeming inability to speak clear German or English, since even if they don’t throw in any words from their dialect they still have this unbreakable tongue that always puts a little twist on the English or German word and thereby making it unique to their group of people. This makes it harder for me and other “outsiders” to understand, even though I have to say that I got used to it quicker due to my Austrian roots. But it also makes it unique to them and for me personally a lot more honest and charming than simple German and English, which to me always seems and sounds so stiff anyways.

Besides the local dialects of Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, Grisons and Appenzell I also got to know the original Zürcher dialect as we visited Zurich on a few occasions, from a daytrip to visit the University and local Museums to going on concerts in the “Hallenstadion”. The “Schwitzerdütsch” – which translate to Swiss German – was something else for me. The sounds are quite harsh and fast, which makes it hard even for me to understand more than just a few words in an entire sentence. It seems to separate itself clearly from the other dialects, as I haven’t been able to find all to many German loanwords that I could connect with other words to make an educated guess as to what the other person is saying.

The only big upside of all the characters here is that they tend to make big gestures and facial expressions, which at the very least allows anyone to see how they are feeling. Is the person stressed, sleepy or happy. Does the aspect he or she is talking about have a sense of urgency or is it close to his or her heart. All of these miniscular things can be understood without knowing the dialect spoken and therefore I felt like I can understand the person sitting across from me by just reading from his or her posture or facial experssions.