The distribution of the national languages has seen moderate change over the past four decades. The proportions of German, Italian and Romansh spoken as people's main language(s) have fallen, whereas those of French and non-national languages have increased. English and Portuguese are the two non-national languages most frequently mentioned.
At a glance
Between 1970 and 2018, the share of people who indicated German (or Swiss German) as their main language(s) declined slightly from 66% to 62%. For Italian (or the Ticino dialect, Italo-grison) and Romansh, the share also fell from 11% to 8% and from 0.8% to 0.5% respectively. On the other hand, the share of people who indicated French rose from 18% to 23% over the same period. The share of people who indicated a non-national language increases sharply from 4% to 23%, mainly due to the possibility, as of 2010, of indicating several main languages.
On the labour market, Swiss German is the most frequently used language (64% of employed persons), followed by German (standard language) (35%), French (29%), then English (20%), and Italian (9%).
43% of the employed population in Switzerland use more than one language in their work at least once a week.
Most persons employed in Switzerland would like to learn or improve their English for their work: this language is ahead of the three national languages, German, French and Italian. Other languages cited in this context are Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Swiss German.
At home or with friends and family, 58% of all persons interviewed usually speak Swiss German, 24% French, 11% German, 8% Italian. English and Portuguese are the two non-national languages most often mentioned with 5% and 4% respectively.
Two thirds of the permanent resident population aged 15 or over (64%) use more than one language at least once a week, for example, to communicate with friends or family, at work or simply to watch the television or use the internet.
Among persons aged 25 or over, one in five learns a second language. English is the most frequently learned language in all language regions (among all apprentices, 35% specify this language), far ahead of French (15%), German (13%) and Italian (11%).
Statistical sources and concepts