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Contributed by Querida Long

Bärndütsch: Dialäkt for you Your bridge to Bernese dialect.


iving in a place where you don’t speak the language is one of the challenges of life as an expat. It’s frustrating when you can’t understand what people are saying to you or when you can’t express yourself. On the other hand, being able to learn a foreign language in the country where it’s spoken is one of the perks of expat life. In Berne that’s German. German is German, right?

Ursula’s new book will help you understand Bernese German. Bärndütsch: Dialäkt for you is the English translation of the textbooks Ursula originally created for French and German speakers who wanted to learn Bernese German. Ursula enlisted her former schoolmate Stephan Gerber and his student Rachelle Römer to translate the book. Stephan is an English teacher at Hofwil Gymnasium and Rachelle was raised to be bilingual by her American and Swiss parents, so both have a deep understanding of both languages. It took more than two years to complete the book, but Rachelle said it was really fun and that she enjoyed it. “Translating the book gave me a new perspective of the Bernese dialect.” That’s because Bernese, like the other Swiss dialects, is a mostly spoken language. Children learn to speak the dialect, but they learn to read and write High German. Similarly, Ursula said she had never really given much thought to the grammar and sentence structure of her native dialect until she began teaching it some twenty years ago. She soon realized what an enormous task she had undertaken, and decided it would be a good idea to write a textbook for people who want to learn Bernese German.

Bärndütsch: Dialäkt for you is available at Stauffacher and other bookstores.

The author has integrated her experience and knowledge of 16 years of teaching Bernese in a versatile and informative book. Her daily experience with people who are interested in Bernese’s common speech is evident. «Bärndütsch» combines grammatical, syntactical and literal details as well as the basic rules of pronunciation in an educative and entertaining way.

The book consists of 15 chapters, each based on an everyday situation, which

Bärndütsch Dialäkt – for you

Bernese is mainly a spoken language, which is why there is a CD containing all the main texts. This enables a practical aid to hearing and learning the spoken Bernese.

Ursula Pinheiro-Weber

Bärndütsch: Dialäkt for you Your bridge to the Bernese dialect By Ursula Pinheiro-Weber Textbook including CD 176 pages CHF 44 / EUR 29 ISBN 978-3-03905-590-6 hep verlag ag


Each chapter is based on an everyday situation. The chapters are divided into a main presenting text, grammatical basics, dialogues, common idiomatic expressions, games, songs and poems. The glossary, which contains approximately 3000 words, helps you understand and develop your Bernese vocabulary. The book also provides many practical pictures and drawings which support the learning process.


“There is no such thing as Swiss German,” declares Ursula PinheiroWeber, author of the book Bärndütsch: Dialäkt for you. “There are several regional dialects such as Bernese German, Zurich German, Basel German and so on, but no single Swiss German.” Ursula told Hello Switzerland that what is usually passed off as Swiss German is actually the Zurich dialect and, if you live in Berne, it is not what you’ll hear when you mingle with the locals. According to most guides to Swiss German, people greet each other with “Grüezi!” but you’ll never hear a Bernese say that. In Berne, the typical greeting is a throaty, “Grüess-ech.” So what’s an English speaking expat in Berne to do? Should you concentrate on learning High German or Bärndütsch (Bernese German)? Of course the answer to this question depends on your goal. Whether you intend to settle in Berne or you’re just passing through,

Author Ursula Pinheiro-Weber with her translator Rachelle Römer

makes it easy to put into practice what you learn. Each chapter has a main presenting text, grammatical basics, dialogues and common idiomatic expressions and all explanations are in English. The set-up of the book also allows you to quickly brush up on your Bernese dialect when necessary. For example, before heading to the post office to mail a package you might turn to the chapter called Briefe, Päckli u so. Even if you aren’t intent on learning to speak Bernese, brushing up in this way will make it easier to understand what others are saying to you. Two things that are especially helpful to English speakers is that the sounds and spelling of the Bernese dialect are explained, and that the glossary is double-sided, meaning you can look up a Bernese word and find its English equivalent or vice versa. Perhaps the single best feature is the CD that comes with the book. You can listen to a conversation while reading along and fine-tune your pronunciation.


Not always. If you learned German in school before moving to Switzerland or if you took a basic German course here in Berne, what you learned was High German, or Written German as the Swiss often call it. If you know High German, you can read signs and you can make yourself understood, but you won’t always understand what the locals say to you because they speak Swiss German. There are books on learning Swiss German, so it’s logical to assume that if you read one of those the problem should be solved; but it isn’t that simple.


Hello Switzerland for Expatriates, Summer Edition 2012  
Hello Switzerland for Expatriates, Summer Edition 2012  

Hello Switzerland is written by expats for expats living in Switzerland. Designed mainly for English speakers, the magazine contains feature...