Roché. (2018). Switzerland’s mysterious fourth language.

Roché, D. (2018, June 28). Switzerland’s mysterious fourth language. Retrieved June 28, 2018, from

“Romansh is a Romance language indigenous to Switzerland’s largest canton, Graubünden, located in the south-eastern corner of the country. In the last century, the number of Romansh speakers has fallen 50% to a meagre 60,000.” (¶2)

“Because the economics and practicality of having an official language with five idioms was cumbersome, in 1982 an artificial, unified version of Romansh, Rumantsch Grischun, was developed by Heinrich Schmid, a linguist from the University of Zürich, and the Lia Rumantscha, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving and promoting Romansh language and culture. Since 1996, the unified Romansh has served as the administrative language, but the people of Graubünden have resisted giving up their own dialects in favour of the common version.” (¶6)

“‘The individual speakers regard unification as a major threat to their own original dialect or idiom,’ explained Daniel Telli, head of the Unit Lingua at Lia Rumantscha. ‘They frequently consider the unified language as artificial, whereas the variety they use is the language of the heart.'” (¶7)

“‘Language is a salient and important expression of cultural identity, and without language you will lose many aspects of the culture,’ said Dr Gregory Anderson, Director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.” (¶9)

“‘Romansh contributes in its own way to a multilingual Switzerland,’ Telli said. ‘And on a different level, the death of a language implies the loss of a unique way to see and describe the world.'” (¶11)

“… a public relations professional who lives in Graubünden, for example, elected to learn French, Italian and English instead, languages that will make her more marketable in a globalised economy.” (¶12)

“However, there is hope on the horizon: in recent years, there has been a slight uptick of interest in Romansh that could help revive the language.

“Ironically, globalisation might be driving the trend.

“‘Years ago no-one wanted things that were traditionally Swiss, but now people are tired of everything being the same everywhere. It’s seen as hip and cool to go back to your roots and be more local than global,’ Gartmann said.” (¶13-15)

“There is a Romansh TV and radio station and a Romansh newspaper, all of which use a mix of the unified language and the different dialects; and bookstores like Provini Il Palantin, which carries one of the largest selections of Romansh books in the canton. There is even a hip-hop group who rap in Romansh.” (¶16)

“And technology is helping resuscitate fading languages like Romansh. The language lives on websites and blogs; online apps like Memrise help teach the language; online translators like Romansh English Translator APK can aid communication; and social media sites allow Romansh speakers to connect, especially among younger people. Technology behemoth Google launched The Endangered Languages Project, to preserve the world’s most at-risk languages, including Romansh.” (¶18)

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