Swiss French: ‘Same dish but different spices’

by Malcolm Curtis | The Local, Switzerland | June 15, 2012

To an Anglophone, the French spoken in Switzerland may sound much like that used in France, but don’t say that to a Parisian.

Upon alighting at the Gare Cornavin, Geneva’s main train station, a native of Paris who travels here on the train notices a few subtle — and sometimes not so subtle — differences in the way the locals speak.

The customs are different too, with three kisses on the cheek to welcome a person or to bid him adieu, instead of the two habitually practised in the French capital.

The people here speak French but with a different accent and a batch of unique phrases.

“I find they talk more slowly and the expressions are different,” Corinne Diane, an employee at the French language service of the United Nations Office of Geneva, tells The Local.

“It has a feeling of the past for me,” says Diane, who is originally from Paris.

“When I first arrived here, what struck me in the shops was how people would say ‘faites seulement’ after I told them I was just window shopping,” she says.

“In France you would say, ‘je vous en prie’, the equivalent in English of “please, go ahead” or “please, feel free”.

The Swiss phrase, literally translated, means “do (it) only”.

When thanking someone for bidding them a good day, the French Swiss – or Suisses Romands – say “pareillement” (literally, “samely”) rather than “vous de même” or “the same to you” in English, Diane notes.

“It’s charming: listening to the way they talk it’s almost as if you can feel the old countryside, especially when you go to small cities in Vaud and Fribourg.”

If it seems like Old French to a Parisian that’s because the language spoken in Romandie retains many elements from the 16th and 17th centuries, expert Andres Kristol tells The Local . . .

To read the entire article, check TheLocal.ch

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About Malcolm Curtis

Freelance English-language communications professional (writing, editing, translations) based near Geneva, Switzerland. Let me know if I can help you.
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