Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, attending the opening of a Romansh cultural festival in canton Graubünden, says Switzerland needs its endangered fourth language.
He was speaking at the opening on Friday of celebrations in Zuoz marking the 100th anniversary of the Lia Rumantschaexternal link, the umbrella group for Romansh-speaking individuals and organisations. The celebrations, which include over 80 activities, will last until August 18.
Cassis thanked the organisers for their invitation in the five different idioms of Romansh, and then to “prove his neutrality” in Romansh Grischun, the artificially created, standardised form of Switzerland’s fourth national language. He also spoke in German, French and Italian.
The minister expressed support for efforts to promote Romansh, hailing the creation of Romansh lessons for children and adolescents of the diaspora. These are to be organised from 2020 with the support of the Swiss government.
There were some 60,000 Romansh speakers in 2000, according to the last census to comprehensively examine the issue. But in 2017 the Federal Statistics Office listed only 44,354 people. Lia Rumantscha attributes the difference to the survey system.
The 18 days of celebrations in Zuoz include readings, roundtables, concerts, conferences, exhibitions and workshops for “all tastes and all ages”, according to the organisers. A play has also been written specially for the occasion, telling the story of a 13th son, Tredeschin, who leaves his home to seek his fortune in foreign lands. It is being performed in Romansh with subtitles in German and Italian.