This indicator enables measurement of the regular use of the non-national languages most used in Switzerland. It can be considered as a proxy for the level of language skills, by taking a wide range of contexts into account, for both spoken and written language. Good language skills improve interaction between the different population groups and facilitate integration strategies. Furthermore, the socio-demographic profile of persons that frequently use non-national languages reveals potentials and needs, particularly with regard to the economy and healthcare services, including nursing homes. This indicator is recommended by the EU.
In Switzerland, 45% of the permanent resident population aged 15 and over uses English at least once a week, 6% Spanish, 5% Portuguese and 3% Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin or Serbian. These are the most represented non-national languages in Switzerland.
In Switzerland, 45% of the population use English regularly - at least once a week. While the population without a migration background tends to have a lower rate than the population of the first generation with a migration background (between 43% and 46%), the population with a migration background from the second and subsequent generations stand out with a higher rate at 54%.
English is used more regularly in the German-speaking region (46%) than in the French-speaking (43%) and the Italian-speaking (37%) regions. There are significant differences between the share of persons with and without a migration background using English regularly in the German and French speaking regions. The same trend can be observed in the Italian-speaking region, although it is not significant there.
In Switzerland, 6% of the population use Spanish regularly. In the population without a migration background, 4% of the persons use Spanish at least once a week. In the population from the 1st generation with a migration background, the rate is almost three times higher (10%). In the second and subsequent generations, the rate is 12%.
Spanish is used more regularly in the French-speaking region (10%) than in the German-speaking (5%) and the Italian-speaking (6%) regions. In the French-speaking region, the rate of persons with a regular use of Spanish is almost four times higher in the population with a migration background than in the population without a migration background. In the Italian-speaking region, the difference is not significant.
In Switzerland, 5% of the population use Portuguese at least once a week. In the first generation of the population with a migration background, 12% of the persons use Portuguese regularly. In the second or subsequent generations, this rate is 7%. Among the population without a migration background, the rate is 1%.
Portuguese is used more regularly in the French-speaking region (11%) than in the Italian-speaking (5%) and the German-speaking (3%) regions. In the French-speaking region, the share of the population with a migration background using Portuguese regularly is fifteen times higher than among the population without a migration background. In the German- and Italian-speaking regions, this share is about seven times higher.
After English, Spanish and Portuguese, the languages of the Balkan countries, i.e. Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian together represent the group of foreign languages most used in Switzerland. They are spoken regularly by 3% of the permanent resident population. In the population with a migration background, there are no significant differences between the 1st, the 2nd or the subsequent generations and the rates are very much alike (around 7%).
Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin or Serbian are more regularly used in the German-speaking (4%) than in the French-speaking region (2%).
The language, religion and culture survey (LRCS) is intended for people aged 15 and over and who can answer in German, French or Italian. In case of insufficient language skills in one of these official languages, part of the survey can be conducted with the help of a third person (proxy interview).
“Regularly used languages” means languages spoken, written, read or heard at least once a week in at least one
of the following contexts:
- in the household: with the partner or the children
- outside the household: with family and friends
- while watching television, listening to the radio or surfing in the internet
- in written exchanges on social networks, by SMS or email, etc. (additional context in the LRCS 2019)
- during leisure time reading
- at work
The following languages were observed: English, Spanish, Portuguese as well as Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian together. These are the non-national languages most represented in Switzerland.