Two newspapers in a café in Fribourg, an officially bilingual city Keystone

Whether chatting with family, friends or work colleagues or just watching television or surfing the internet, almost two-thirds (64%) of Swiss use more than one language at least once a week, with 38% using two, 19% three and 7% four or more.

This content was published on October 5, 2016 - 11:34 and agencies, and agencies

After German, Swiss-German and French, English is fourth among the languages used regularly, according to a 2014 survey on language use by the Federal Statistical Office, published on Wednesday.

The study looked at Swiss aged 15 or more and found that the people most likely to use more than one language on a regular basis were those with a university education (76%), those aged 15-24 (79%) and those with jobs (72%). In addition, 84% of immigrants and their descendants were multilingual.

While Switzerland’s three official languages – German, French and Italian – are regularly spoken by practically all residents in their respective linguistic regions, the Swiss-German dialect is spoken at least once a week by 87% of those in the German-speaking part of the country.

When it comes to speaking other official languages, 20% of German-speakers and 12% of Italian-speakers say they use French regularly; 19% of French-speakers regularly use German and 11% Italian. Only 6% of people living in western Switzerland said they spoke Swiss-German at least once a week.

Romansh, Switzerland’s fourth national language, is spoken by three-quarters (77%) of people in canton Graubünden, Switzerland’s Romansh-speaking region. Almost nine out of ten (88%) people in Graubünden regularly use German and Swiss-German.

Lingua franca

English, as the international lingua franca, is widely and regularly spoken in Switzerland – by 43%, 38% and 30% of Swiss in the German-, French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country respectively.

English is even the second-most used language in German- and French-speaking Switzerland, especially among young people and those with a university education.

The survey did not specifically measure how many Swiss use English to communicate with other Swiss.

The other most-spoken languages in Switzerland are Spanish (6%), Portuguese (5%) and Balkan languages (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian: 3%). The first two are more common in western Switzerland and the latter group more common in eastern Switzerland.

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