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There are four languages spoken in Switzerland: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. In principle, all four languages are equal. In practice, however, things sometimes work out rather differently and the smaller groups often have to struggle to assert their political and economic influence, although in purely cultural matters the ideal of equal rights is never disputed. Switzerland's religious and linguistic frontiers do not coincide, and the country also entertains strong cultural links with neighboring regions. These relationships are somewhat ambivalent as they vary historically between a strong leaning toward a neighboring culture and a rejection of it because it appears to pose a threat to Swiss identity. The Federal Constitution stipulates that German, French, and Italian are Switzerland's official languages. They enjoy equal status in Parliament, the federal administration, and the army. In 1938 Romansh was declared the fourth 'national language,' but it is not an official one. The most recent census produced the following picture of how the language groups are divided: German 65%, French 18.4%, Italian 9.8% and Romansh 0.8%. Schools play a key role in bringing the languages closer together, for cantonal school regulations require that every child learn a second national language from his or her seventh school year at the latest.
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