The diaspora rumantscha in German-speaking Switzerland

Focus on families
Project management

Dr. Claudia Cathomas, lic.phil. Flurina Graf, Institut für Kulturforschung Graubünden

11.2021 - 06.2024
Institutions, Migration, Acquisition

Two-thirds of all Rhaeto-Romanic speakers live outside the Rhaeto-Romanic homeland, yet the specific linguistic conditions for Romansh speakers outside the traditional language region have not yet been studied in detail. In 2019, the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau carried out an evaluation (in German) on measures to preserve the Rhaeto-Romanic language; the results indicate there is urgent need for action with regard to aspects such as educational and networking opportunities for Rhaeto-Romanic speakers in the diaspora. The authors of the evaluation recommend conducting a systematic analysis to better understand how to support this population.

Against this backdrop, the institute for cultural research Graubünden (ikg) is conducting a situation analysis and a needs analysis, with a focus on the following objectives:

  1. The situation analysis contains a survey of Rhaeto-Romanic educational opportunities in three regions outside the Rhaeto-Romanic homeland. One aim is to establish how and in what contexts families outside the Rhaeto-Romanic homeland speak the language; aspects such as language use, language skills, language attitudes and language practices like code-mixing are examined. Romansh speakers who seldom or never use the language are also surveyed in the interest of investigating conditions for a possible language shift.
  2. The aim of the needs analysis is to allow statements to be made on conditions for preserving the language in an environment dominated by the German language. A key aspect is identifying the specific needs of families with regard to institutions, resources and support in connection with using Rhaeto-Romanic in their everyday lives.

93 percent of the majority Rhaeto-Romanic population in the diaspora lives in German-speaking Switzerland; the project therefore focuses on Romansh speakers in this region. Families with children from the age of language acquisition through to adolescence (approximately 1.5 to 18 years of age) form the target group, as long-term preservation of a language relies on passing the language on to the next generation, and because Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking families in German-speaking Switzerland are often on their own when teaching their children their language as they have neither access to Romansh schools nor to a Romansh-speaking community. Cities offering varying degrees of access to Rhaeto-Romanic institutions and educational opportunities have been selected for the study: Chur, with the largest Romansh-speaking population in the diaspora as a core, inter-cantonal nexus between the various Romansh idioms with the possibility of bilingual schools and a bilingual Matura (Swiss university entrance qualification); Zurich, with the second-largest Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking community with a Romansh-speaking day-care facility; and Bern, the Swiss capital and seat of government with a much smaller Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking population and virtually non-existent resources for Romansh speakers.

Purpose – Expected results

Recommended courses of action will be formulated on the basis of the findings, under consideration of international research on comparable situations.