The European Day of Languages is taking place on 26 September. Appropriately, the Università della Svizzera italiana is publishing a book to coincide with the event. It focuses on idioms in the four national languages of Switzerland, describing and comparing them in a humorous and informative way.


Not all German speakers in Switzerland will be familiar with the expression “Betg tgapeir Cristo?” or even “Non capire un’acca.” But they are bound to know what someone means when they say, “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof” (a German expression meaning that something is all Double Dutch or Greek to them). It is very rare that you can translate idioms from one language into another. A project team commissioned by the Università della Svizzera italiana examined precisely these linguistic peculiarities. In collaboration with partner institutions, the book “Ün viadi e 4 servezzans – 4 piccioni con una fava – D’une pierre 4 coups – 4 Fliegen mit einer Klappe” (Four birds with one stone) is being published to coincide with the European Day of Languages. Typical idioms were translated word for word and in terms of meaning into the other national languages of Switzerland and compared, with illustrations by national artists framing the informative and entertaining texts. The website also contains additional information on the national languages and educational materials that can be incorporated into language teaching at primary and secondary level. Whether just for reading or as inspiration for one of your next lessons: idioms in other languages always provide a little insight into different lives and cultures!

Please note: “Betg tgapeir Cristo” (Surmiran, an idiom of Romansh) and “Non capire un’acca” (Italian) are very similar in meaning and can be compared to an English speaker saying “It's all Double Dutch/Greek to me”.