Languages of instruction in Switzerland

Languages of instruction in Switzerland

Switzerland, or the Swiss Confederation, is a special country. Geography, history, political structure and administrative division have left a serious imprint on many aspects of her life, including the education system and state languages.

Official languages ​​of Switzerland

The country has 4 official languages: German, Italian, French and Romansh (Swiss Romansh). The popularity of European languages ​​is due to geography: Switzerland is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, and Germany to the north.


German is the most spoken language in Switzerland and is the official language in 17 of the 26 cantons. It is used by 63.7% of the population.

Teaching in schools, universities, language courses are conducted in the so-called Hochdeutsch – literary German. However, Germans, German-speaking Swiss and Swiss from different cantons may not always understand each other. This is because in everyday life people speak a special dialect of Schwizerdütsch. The pronunciation of some words and grammatical forms may vary from canton to canton. The differences are so significant that sometimes the Swiss prefer to communicate with each other in English.

The cantons with the official German language have the second-highest number of secondary schools in Switzerland. Here you can get an education according to the complex German program Abitur. It is suitable for admission to universities in Austria and Germany.

German-speaking universities

  • University of Basel (Universität Basel)
  • University of Bern (Universität Bern)
  • University of Lucerne (Universität Luzern)
  • University of St. Gallen (Universität St. Gallen)
  • University of Zurich (Universität Zürich)
  • Swiss Higher Technical School of Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich)


French is spoken by the southwestern part of Switzerland, 20.4% of the population. It is the second most widespread state language. Unlike German, Swiss-French is practically the same as the one spoken in Paris.

Most of the schools are concentrated in French-speaking cantons. Studying in them, the student can choose the French Baccalaureate program. A certificate of completion of such a program allows you to enter the universities of France, Switzerland, Canada and Belgium.

Francophone universities

  • University of Geneva (Université de Genève)
  • University of Lausanne (Université de Lausanne)
  • University of Neuchâtel (Université de Neuchâtel)
  • Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne)


Italian is the least spoken language. It is spoken by 6.5% of the population, the vast majority of whom live in the canton of Ticino. Southern Switzerland has the smallest number of secondary schools and 1 university with Italian-language programs – the University of Lugano (Università Della Svizzera Italiana).

A diploma from the Italian high school program Maturita allows you to enter Italian and Swiss universities.


The rarest and endangered language in the country. Teaching in this language is conducted in some secondary schools, but is not in demand among foreign students.

The only bilingual university in Switzerland is the University of Friborg (FR: Université de Friborg. German: Universität Freiburg), where teaching is carried out equally in French and German. Located in the canton of Friborg.

Having 4 legally recognized languages ​​does not imply that every Swiss must speak everyone. Most residents use the official cantonal language and English to communicate with foreigners.

English in Switzerland

Most private schools in Switzerland are bilingual, that is, subjects there are taught in several European languages ​​at once. English has been studied additionally as a foreign language at a very high level. However, often for admission to educational institutions in Switzerland, knowledge of English at the B2 level is already required.

At universities, teaching in English is less common and is available in undergraduate programs at private universities and graduate programs at public universities.

In addition to European educational systems, in Switzerland, you can get education in the British (A-Levels, IGCSE), American (High School Diploma), and international programs (International Baccalaureate).

Choosing an educational institution in Switzerland

The variety of educational programs in Switzerland can be confusing for those who choose a school, university or language courses for themselves or their children for the first time. Allterra Education managers will help you to weigh the pros and cons, choose the optimal academic program, collect, translate and send documents.

Feel free to leave us your comment. It helps us understand what you like or don’t like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.