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Parlez-vous... ? One in six speaks more than one main language

One in six Swiss residents consider themselves multilingual


Nearly 16 per cent per cent of the Swiss population declare themselves to be multilingual, according to the latest study by the Federal Statistics Office.

Those who declared speaking several languages were described by the statistics office as being bilingual because “they think in these languages and speak them very well”. The study was based on a survey of 320,000 residents aged over 15.

It found that 91.3 per cent of the population speaks a national language as their main language, a figure which remained stable in the decade from 2000 to 2010.

Unsurprisingly, German (65.6 per cent), French (22.8 per cent) and Italian (8.4 per cent) are the top three most spoken languages. English is the main language for 4.5 per cent of the population and Romansh, Switzerland's fourth national language is spoken by just 0.6 per cent.

In the workplace, Swiss-German was used by 66.9 per cent of respondents, German by 32.3 per cent, French by 29 per cent and English by 16.5 per cent.

As part of its survey, the statistics office also looked at changes in religious representation in Switzerland from 2000 to 2010. It found that one fifth of population declared having no religious affiliation, a rise of 8.9 per cent since 2000.

The Catholic Church remains the strongest religious institution in Switzerland with 38.8 per cent of the population among its ranks, despite a drop in membership of 3.7 per cent.

Almost one-third (30.9 per cent) of the population claimed to belong to the Protestant Church, while Muslims accounted for 4.5 per cent of those declaring a religious affiliation, and Jews 0.2 per cent.

The Catholic Church remains dominant in central Swiss cantons as well as Ticino, Valais, Fribourg, Appenzell Inner Rhodes and Jura where 60 per cent of the population are Catholics. In Geneva, Catholics and those with no religious affiliation each accounted for roughly 35 per cent of the population.

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