This language is largely unknown. Its origins are found in Latin, and it is one of the four official languages of Switzerland, along with German, French and Italian. Belongs to the family of Rhaeto-Romanic languages, which means it has a significant similarity to Friulian and Ladin, spoken in northern Italy.
Furthermore, Romansh has five dialects: Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Valland.
This language originated and remains in the Swiss alpine canton of Graubünden, which is the longest span in the country with 150 valleys, although its population is only 187,000 people.
However, it is within that group of minority languages that are constantly threatened with extinction.
Romansh is spoken by only 0.5% of the Swiss population and virtually confined to the area of Graubünden mentioned earlier; of the nearly eight million people living in Switzerland, only 35,000 identify Romansh as their dominant language and 60,000 more say that they use it regularly.
Also, we must add to this the fact that, according to the 2000 census, Romansh is the tenth language spoken in the Swiss Confederation, after German, French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Albanian, Portuguese, Spanish, English and Turkish, to which we must add also the accent of present-day globalization.
Already coming to terms with the difficulties this language would face to survive, in 1919 it intended to reinforce the use of language by founding the “Lia Rumantscha” (Romansh League) and in 1938 Switzerland recognized it as a national language, giving it the same status as German, French and Italian.
The Lia Rumantscha receives around three million euros from the Swiss Confederation to help the language still alive, half of that budget goes to the translation of school textbooks in five dialects.
1982 saw the creation of the “Rumantsch Grischun”, a standardization of the language through the merger of the five dialects, establishing formal grammar rules, which would strengthen the use of the language, but which has not been well accepted by its speakers, most of which have rejected it.
What seems to give better results in this effort to keep alive the language is that it continues to be used in schools in Graubünden, where classes are taught in both German and Romansch.
It does not help that there is no political party which advocates any further recognition and support in Romansh, and what is sadder, the director of Economy and Tourism of the Canton of Graubünden thinks that trying to promote and consolidate its use is a waste of time and money.
If you are interested, you can find more information on the website of the Lia Rumantscha; don’t worry, the information is translated into English, among other languages.
(Versión en español: La lengua romanche