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Val Poschiavo. Photo/Foto: Wikipedia.

The Fourth Minority

Switzerland is a quadrilingual country (Italian, German, French and Romansh) with three minorities: French-, Italian- and Romansh-speaking citizens. The vast majority are German-speakers.

However, there is another minority, the fourth minority.These are the Italian-speaking people in the canton of Grisons. The canton is officially trilingual (Romansh, German and Italian).

The German-speaking inhabitants are in the majority in this canton (around 110 000). The Romansh population consists of 60 000 speakers.

The minority of around 20 000 Italian-speaking inhabitants of the canton live in four separated valleys (Val Poschiavo/Puschlav, Val Bregaglia/Bergell, Val Mesolcina/Misox and Val Calanca).

The Italian speakers in these valleys regard themselves as Italian minority of the Italian-speaking minority in canton Tessin/Ticino.

The Italian association Pro Grigioni Italiano confirms that the Italian-speaking minority in the canton have fewer career changes at the federal level compared to citizens of Ticino, even if they speak the other languages of the Confederation.

Moreover, there is no solidarity between the Italian-speaking minorities of Ticino (352 000 inhabitants) and Grisons. They call it Ticinocentrismo.

The solidarity between the French-speaking and Italian-speaking Swiss citizens, la solidarité latine, is also limited.

The principle at federal level remains the mastery of the German language.

The debate is topical at a time when the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne deals with the education of foreign language(s) in primary schools (in addition to German, Romansh or Italian, depending on the commune in which the language is spoken).

Most German-speaking schools opt for English, but most Italian-speaking schools opt for German rather than English.