Step 1. Pimsleur Swiss German CDs

I started trying to learn Swiss German about a month or two ago. Before that, my Swiss friends would teach me a word here or there but at that point I wasn’t seriously trying to learn anything (I was quite preoccupied with the crazy amounts of chemistry I had to cram in my head for uni).

When I eventually decided that I was going to go to Switzerland in the summer, I decided that I was going to try my best to learn what I could of Swiss German. At the beginning, I spent a lot of time on the Internet looking for the best ways to dip my toe in the water and start getting a feel for the language. Due to the limited resources available, I didn’t have a ton of choices. Ultimately, I decided to use up a gift card I had had for a while and purchase the “Pimsleur Swiss German CD set” from the book store.

I downloaded the CD and put it on dropbox so that I could download it on all of my devices and listen to it wherever. (If you are currently trying to learn CH and want to try the course out, feel free to message me and I can give you the dropbox link so you dont have to pay the $50 that I had to)

I found the course to be a pretty good introduction to the language. The course is comprised of 10 lessons that are each about 20 minutes. The lessons to a decent job of repeating the content enough so that you can memorize the sentences that they teach you. However, this constant repetition takes up a large chunk of the lessons so the amount of material actually covered is fairly limited. By the end of lesson 10, I could say a couple of very basic things like “my name is ___”, “where is __” and sentences of the like. The entire “course” seemed pretty short but it got me actually saying things out loud in Swiss German (and practicing the strange sounds that it is made up of), which was a good start.

One thing that was lacking in the course was any sort of real explanations as to what the individual words meant. This made it difficult for me to try and take words from the sentences I was learning and rearrange them to make new sentences. The format of the lessons is pretty much: 1) teacher says this is how to ask/say ___ and then says it in CH 2) you have to repeat it out loud 3) later on, the teacher asks you how to say the sentence and you have to say it 4) the teacher then tells you the answer so that you can figure out if you said it right. This leaves you at the end with a set of more or less rigid sentences that you could use in “survival” situations in Switzerland. Not a bad thing to have but it was certainly not enough to be able to actually use in a real life conversation.

I listened to the course several times until I felt comfortable with pretty much all of the sentences but I struggled with the fact that I didn’t have any written material to go along with the sentences I was saying (I am much more of a visual learner than an oral learner). If I forgot how to say something, I would have to scroll through the lesson to try and find the point where the teacher says the sentence that I was trying to remember. I tried to write down how the words sounded but what I really wanted was to be able to write out the sentences with the correct spelling that a Swiss person would use (I know that there is no official written language but there is definitely a no lack of written Swiss German. There is not standard “right way” of spelling things but there is a usually a general spelling that is usually understood by other Swiss German speaking people).

This desire to be able to associate some sort of spelling with the sentences  had learned led me to the next sort of “step” in my Swiss German learning process. I will discuss this more in my next post.