While people in the “German-speaking” areas of Switzerland read and write Standarddeutsch, they speak Schwyzerdütsch – which linguists might describe as a dialect of German, but which to a casual observer is a different language.
In its article on Swiss German, Wikipedia reports that many Swiss consider Hochdeutsch to be a foreign language. Yet looking at Swiss TV I see that at least some programmes are broadcast in German, so there’s obviously an expectation that viewers will be able to understand it. A discussion in a forum thread I found – “What About Swiss People's High German?” – is inconclusive.
So I’m unclear on the practical utility of spoken German in Switzerland. What reaction can I expect if I start speaking Hochdeutsch to people in the central part of the country (Zürich, Luzern, Nidwalden)? Are they likely to understand (and recognise that I’m “making an effort”) and be able to respond, or – if German is a foreign language to both of us – will I be better off sticking to the classical “Brit abroad” thing and just talking in English?