It’s About Time

The Swiss watchmakers Swatch have published their annual report in the Swiss German dialect, rather than as is usually the case for company reports, in Standard German. Here’s the first paragraph:

Sie wondere sech vilicht, dass de Gschaftsbricht 2012 sehr vill mit em driessigschte Geburtstag vo Swatch z’tue het. Alli Aktionarinne und Aktionare, fascht alli Schwiizer wie au veli Monschei andere Lander wossed, dass Swatch 1983 gebore worde isch. Und sie hand racht: D’Marktiifuherig vo de Swatch e de Schwiiz, d’Wedergebort vo de Schwiizer Uhreinduschtrie und de Beginn vo de Erfolgsgschicht vo eusem Undernahme, das alles isch of e Marz 1983 gfalle. Harzliche Gluckwunsch zum Geburtstag, Swatch!

It’s as if, let us say, a firm of Scotch whisky distillers published their annual report in the Lallans dialect, which looks like this:

The Scots Leid Associe wis foondit in 1972 an aye ettles tae pit forrit a feckfu case for the Scots language in formal, informal and ilka day uiss. Scots wis aince the state language o Scotland an is aye a grace til oor national leiterature. It lies at the hert o Scotland’s heirskep as ane o wir three indigenous leids alang wi Gaelic an Scottish Inglis.

Swatch are to be applauded for their initiative. I have shown here, here and here that the Swiss have no hang-ups about their dialects. On the contrary, they are proud of them, and use them all the time. The Swatch report will be understood by all German speakers in a way that a report in Lallans, or any other British regional dialect, would not be understood by most English speakers. But Swatch know that Swiss German is not understood by most non-German speakers, so they have also made it available in English. It would be a gesture in the cause of linguistic diversity if a British company published their annual report in both Standard English and in the dialect of the region in which they principally operated. But they wouldn’t dare.

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Filed under Dialects, Language, Swiss German

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