Le Suisse Roman = French From France ≠ Swiss French from Switzerland

French Swiss Language ≠ French Spoken in France
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French is one of the language spoken in Switzerland along with Italian, German and "Romanche", a regional language. Like it is the case in many places, these root languages have given way to a Swiss version, which has rooms for variations - often mostly accent and vocabulary. 

Today, we'll take a closer look to "le Suisse Roman" - The French language spoken in French speaking Switzerland (La Suisse Romande).

I spent a lot of time there since my grandparents lived in beautiful Vevey, and I went there many times as a child. Note there are variations to le Suisse Roman according to the different regions - so not everybody would agree with this list : as I said "rooms for variations"! I will list below the six biggest differences:

6 -The French Swiss Accent versus Parisian French

Swiss French use “long vowels that were lost in standard Parisian French in the 18th and 19th centuries and that gives the impression they talk more slowly,” says Kristol, director of the University of Neuchâtel’s center for the study of dialects and regional French. Yet, many Swiss people still apply the modern glidings of French such as saying "chtaim" for "je t'aime". But it's the "ai" part that would be longer. The overall sing songy of the language is also quite different, less tonic in Swiss French, with an accentuation of the last syllable.

Les Français often make fun of the Swiss French accent...

5 - Numbers : septante, huitante (ou octante) et nonante

Don't you love the Swiss for that? Instead of our crazy soixante-dix, quatre-vingts and quatre-vingt-dix, Swiss French uses septante (70), huitante (ou octante - 80) et nonante (90). I love it and I bet you do too!

Note however that we don't use these numbers in France at all, so you cannot just decide to use them to make things easier. If you speak Parisian French and suddenly used nonante-neuf (99), it would sound extremely strange.

4 - The meals : "déjeuner" is not the same meal in Swiss French than in French from France

"Le déjeuner" in Lausanne will refer to breakfast. But if you're asked out for "déjeuner" in Paris, it would be for lunch! In French from France, breakfast is "le petit déjeuner, prendre son petit-déjeuner".

"Le dîner" is dinner in France. But for French speaking Switzerland, it's "le souper", just like in Québec. This too comes from old French.

So what about lunch? You've guessed it... in Swiss French, it's "le dîner". In French from France, it's "le déjeuner".

So to recap:

EnglishFrench from FranceSwiss French
Breakfastle petit-déjeunerle déjeuner
Lunchle déjeunele dîner
Dinnerle dînerle souper


3 - Greetings Also Differ Between France and Switzerland

"Bonjour" in Paris becomes "Adieu" in Genève ! Note however that "au revoir" is also "adieu"in Switzerland, so that's convenient.
In French speaking Switzerland, you'd answer "merci" with "service", instead of "je vous en prie". 
When one sneezes, un suisse roman would say "santé" or "santé et conservation", when un français would say "à vos souhaits".

Finally, it's common in Swiss French to wish someone to have a good day when they leave by saying "tout de bon" - in French, we'll probably say "bonne journée or bonne soirée" or even "à bientôt".

2 - Many French Swiss words are taken from German and Italian

Of course, the Swiss French language is influenced by its neighbors and has incorporated many regional words, as well as German and Italian words, or literal translations such as:

EnglishFrench from FranceSwiss French
SemolinaDe la semouleDu griess
A jokeUne blagueUn witz
A backpackUn sac à dosUn rucksack
A bandaidUn pansementUn bletz
A sausageUne saucisseUn shüblig
To clean the houseFaire le ménagePoutser
May IEst-ce que je peuxEst-ce que j'ose
Good luckBonne chanceBonne Continuation


1 - And now, just a list of random Swiss French words and expressions

EnglishFrench from FranceSwiss French
GazolineL'essenceLa benzine
A Cell PhoneUn portableUn natel
GrandmaGrand-mère, mamieGrand-maman
To wash the dishesFaire la vaisselleRelaver
GutterUne gouttièreUn cheneau
The UniversityLa facL'uni
Apple sauceLa compote de pommesLa purée de pommes
BeetsDes betteravesDes carottes rouges
To ParkSe garerParquer la voiture
AnywayDe toutes façonsComme que comme
A man bathing suitUn maillot de bainle caleçon de bain
A scooter (for kids)Une trottinetteUne patinette
Go ahead !Allez-yFaites seulement
SweatpantsUn survêtementUn training
Another servingUne fournéeUne sucée
A paper/plastic bagUn sacUn cornet
Special offerUne promotionUne action
Face clothUn gant de toiletteUne lavette
Dish TowelUn torchonUn linge de cuisine
A bath towelUne serviette de bainUn linge de bain
A messun désordreUn chenit

Voilà, I hope you enjoyed this article. If you are Swiss and would like to submit more vocabulary and expressions, please send me an email (Camille at FrenchToday dot com) following this format: English / French from France / Swiss French and I will add it to the list!

And if you liked this article, I suggest you check out my 7 favorite Canadian French Expressions.

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