Hiking / A little bit of Sursilvan Romansch


Buna sera!

Yesterday I was approached by a young man enrolled in a higher level and he asked me, in English, if I was “the Canadian”. He wanted to know why I would be so interested in this course and since he also spoke English, it was a relief for me to answer this question differently. For the past four days I have had to repeat the same thing over and over, in German, explaining why I came here and why I find Romansch so fascinating. In my mother tongue I was able to express myself better, in spite of having to put myself on automatic rewind each time I have to answer the question in German.

Filip, a Swiss-Czech, was enrolled in the fifth level and he spoke Romansch like a native speaker. He invited me along on a hike today, and after class he and another advanced student, Siegfried (“Ziggy”), a professor from Berlin, left to explore the forested area along the Rhine. We left at 14.30 and took the bus to Ilanz then caught the Rhätische Bahn (Rhaeto-Railway) to take us two stops east. The Rhätische Bahn is a separate railway line through the Romansch valleys of Graubünden. There is only one set of tracks, thus trains in opposing directions must share the line. There are two sets of tracks at each train station, however.

Today was cloudless and hot, perfect weather to be outside. We followed a hiking map that Filip had and he took us along the blue Rhine and through the forest. The trail was marked so there was no danger of being lost. We visited the region known as the Rheinschlucht, where erosion had stripped many mountains bare. Mountainsides were either green with trees or whitewashed with bare rock. Filip showed just how delicate the rock was by kicking it. Careful! Do you want us to be buried alive? One could see solitary trees clinging to the tips of needlelike pillars and, underneath, tree trunks that had been felled by erosion. One never knew what would appear as we rounded a corner and sometimes the light blue shimmer of the Rhine flowing past the pure white mountainsides was more breathtaking than the uphill climbs of Bern! We walked until we arrived at the next train station east, and grabbed the train back in time for dinner.

Here is a sample of Sursilvan Romansch. Try to read it and figure out what it means. The English translation will follow.

Tgi ei la dunna cun cavels blonds? Nua stat ella? Ella stat a Cuera, mo ella ei da Turitg. Tgei fa ella a Cuera? Ella ei scolasta, ella dat scola. Giuvna Fischer fa il cuors da romontsch tier signur Durisch. Co han ils nums dils participonts dil cuors? Nua stattan els? Danunder ein els? Tgi spetga si’amitga? Tgei fa igl um cun egliers?

Knowledge of other Romance languages is helping me learn this language faster than I thought. The similarities become obvious more when one pronounces the words as opposed to merely looking at them.

After I send this I am going to check out bus and train routes for my two excursions after this course: from Laax to Vaduz, Liechtenstein; then from Vaduz to Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. I will spend my final night in Switzerland in Zürich.

Who is the woman with the blonde hair? Where does she live? She lives in Chur, however she comes from Zürich. What does she do in Chur? She’s a teacher, she teaches school. Miss Fischer is taking the Romansch course with Mr. Durisch. What are the names of the students in the course? Where do they live? Where are they from? Who is waiting for his girlfriend? What does the man with the glasses do?

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