I'd like to know if, by reading a Swiss newspaper like the NZZ, I'll come across language usage that, in spite of being perfectly correct in Swiss standard German, would be frowned upon if I used them in most German proficiency exams. In other words, as someone who's interested in learning standard German, should I stick to German newspapers in order to avoid incorporating usage that would sound strange outside of Switzerland or is it immaterial whether I read a German or a Swiss newspaper in this respect? I hope that doesn't sound (too) ignorant.
Yes, you will. Not only in the Swiss dialects, but also in written Swiss standard German (as used in the press), word and expression usage can differ so significantly that even a native German speaker can have problems at least to capture details in a regular Swiss text.
Some examples are:
- Words which are slightly different, but still likely understood, like e.g. 'parkieren' (Swiss) vs. 'parken' (German) in the meaning of 'to park (e.g. a car)'.
- Swiss Standard German uses many French loan words like Trottoir, Glace or Billette. Unless a German native speaker has learned French and knows these words, he will not likely understand what is meant.
- Swiss Standard German uses many words of Germanic origin, which are not or only rarely used in Germany. Just to mention a few examples from an arbitrary article in SRF: Bussenzettel, Verzeigung and abschlägig.
Swiss Standard German, just as 'German German' often uses product names when talking about services, concepts and things. A native German speaker is not likely to understand what a Halbtax-Karte or Natel is.
And then there are a few uncommon typographic conventions in Switzerland, like the usage of «...» instead of „...“ as quotation marks and that the German letter ß is not used, but written ss instead (Swiss German: gross, standard German: groß).
Reading a Swiss or Austrian newspaper will increase the likelihood of encountering constructions that may be rejected by Germans as not conforming to the standard.
For instance, note the position of the finite verb in the following sentence:
Man könnte bemängeln, dass die Lenkung einen Tick direkter ausfallen hätte dürfen. NZZ
(instead of hätte ausfallen dürfen)
Native speakers of German from different regions find this order acceptable, but others will judge it ungrammatical even when coming from a native speaker, let alone a language learner.
However, this is no reason to abstain from reading Swiss or Austrian newspapers. Firstly, the positive impact will always outweigh the negative; second, contentious constructions occur infrequently enough that it does not seem likely that you will incorporate them into your own speech; and third, they also occur in German newspapers, although maybe not as many and not as frequently.
PS: For those interested in the "Grammar of variants of Standard German", feel free to follow @VariantenGra on Twitter for interesting tidbits.
I really like to read Newspapers in German and English. My general experience is that the differences between Austrian Standard German, Federal German Standard German, and Swiss Standard German are very much comparable to the differences between American, Australian, British, Canadian, and Indian English. However, there are barely any spelling differences between the different varieties of Standard German. The only major difference is that the Swiss replace
ss because their multi-language keyboard lacks that letter (and for other reasons). Then on the other hand, pronunciation of Swiss Standard German differs greatly from the other varieties to the point where Swiss radio and TV is difficult to understand for the rest of us.
What makes the situation a little tricky is that in the case of the German language, some people consider only the variety used in Germany correct. This notion is about as ridiculous as the idea that British English is the only true English. How certain testing centers will handle this depends on the individual testing center. You could ask them.
The general advice for writing in English and German is to stick to one variety in each text. One way is to only expose yourself to one variety like how when I went to school in Austria we always only read and heard British English. The harder but more realistic way is to expose yourself to all the varieties and note the differences. This is not as hard as it sounds because if you have to look up a new word your dictionary will tell you which variety it belongs to. The different varieties of Standard German mostly differ in vocabulary anyways.
The Swiss newspapers (as an example NZZ) are grammatically correct and do not show any disadvantage to learning the german language. As in Germany, there are various dialects (language regions) in Switzerland, but this does not affect in a newspaper, dialects are not used there (however, I can only confirm this from Swiss newspapers). So if you want to learn German, you can read Swiss newspapers, but also German or Austrian newspapers.
With the small exception of words commonly used in a specific region, all "German" newspapers are written in "Hochdeutsch" - which is the common German tongue. If, at a later time, you want to listen to German being spoken, you should make sure that its "Hochdeutsch", best spoken in the region around Hannover