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A Nation of Four Languages

Three-quarters of Switzerland's people reside in the central lowlands between the Alps and the Jura; more than two-fifths live in cities and towns of more than 10,000 residents. There are some 400 inhabitants per square mile.

The bulk of Switzerland's income derives from industry, crafts, and tourism, which together employ more than a million people. Only about 7% of the Swiss are engaged in agriculture and forestry, although the country produces about half of its food supply. Switzerland exports engineering, chemical, and pharmaceutical products, as well as world-famous clocks and watches.

The Swiss have a vastly diverse culture. There are four major linguistic and ethnic groups which overlap each other -- German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Despite these variations, however, the Swiss have formed a strong national identity.

About 70% of the people speak Swiss-German, or Schwyzerdütsch (Schweizerdeutsch in standard German); about 20% speak French; and about 9% speak Italian, mostly in the southern Ticino region. Approximately 1% speak Romansh, a Rhaeto-Romanic dialect that contains a pre-Roman vocabulary and a substratum of Latin elements; it is believed to be the language of old Helvetia and is spoken mainly by people in the Grisons. Most Swiss speak more than one of the four languages. Many also speak English.

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