Source: picture of the author
Because I am late-deafened, my speech development in childhood was good. I loved to learn foreign languages in school and that I learned German, English, and French. I am proud to say that I was conversationally passable in those langauges. However grammar was never my strong suit, as you might have noticed, save in my mother tongue.
Later, at the university, I learned some Russian in addition to the other languages. It was an interesting language, most of which I unfortunately lost because I never used it.
When my husband and I moved to Switzerland a good six years ago (Yes, I am a naturalized Swiss citizen, originating from the Netherlands and am married to a Swiss man) I noticed that the learning of a new language was no longer as simple as it was. Since my university days, my hearing has progressively gotten worse. My hearing crashed 10 Decibels 8 years ago.
Swiss German therefore took a bit of effort to get used to, especially the Berner German. Of course I have nothing against a native of Bern, quite the opposite in fact: my husband is a Berner. However, Berner German is an enormous challenge for me to understand!
I was lucky that here, near a big city I could get along very well with High German and the people were often very friendly and helpful.
These days I understand most things in Swiss German, but the Berner dialect still gives me some trouble, but that too is getting easier. Personally, I speak a mix of Swiss German and High German with a Swiss German accent dependent on how tired I am. In the local retirement home for the elderly where I work as a volunteer, I am gently corrected occasionally which I appreciate.
Now, I was in a shop about a week ago where the proprietor during the course of our conversation asked which dialect I speak. Yes, you read that right! She did not ask me where I came from or which country I was from. No, she asked which dialect I speak! I explained to her that I was very pleased that she thought I spoke a dialect and told her about where I came from. She was quite surprised that I had mastered the language so well. I thanked her heartily, and I do believe my thankful ear to ear grin was not overseen…