Phrases in Pennsylvania Dutch {Lessons from My Amish Family}

My brother & me

My brother & me

I was born into a “New Order Amish” family, and learned to speak both Pennsylvania Dutch and English as a child. The Amish people are fluent speakers of both Pennsylvania Dutch and English. They also have a reading knowledge of High German, which is used in their church services in scripture reading, preaching and worship songs.

My parents on their wedding day

My wonderful parents, on their wedding day

“Pennsylvania Dutch” is actually not “Dutch” at all, but rather, Pennsylvania Deutsch (or German). “Pennsylvania German developed in the eighteenth century as the result of the immigration of approximately 81,000 German-speakers from Central Europe, including Switzerland, to southeastern Pennsylvania. The vast majority (96 percent) of these immigrants were of the Lutheran or German Reformed faith; of the remaining 4 percent, roughly one-half were Mennonites and only a few hundred were Amish. Whatever varieties of German they spoke in Europe, the Amish assimilated to the language of the majority, Pennsylvania German, which resembles most closely the German dialects spoken in the southeastern Palatinate, near the city of Mannheim. The influence of English on Pennsylvania German is often overstated. Only 10 to 15 percent of Pennsylvania German vocabulary is English-derived; its core grammatical structures remain Palatine German.” Anabaptist Studies at Elizabethtown College

Party at Grandma's house! (That's me, on my Grandma Esh's lap.)

Party at Grandma’s house!

Although I don’t speak much Dutch these days, there are a few phrases from my childhood that I still use on a regular basis, when speaking with my daughter. Here are the phrases, for your reading enjoyment! (Note: These words are not spelled technically, but phonetically instead so that you can pronounce them as written. Many thanks to my Daddy Jacob Dienner for his help!)

Playing with my brother

Playing with my brother

Kannscht du Deitsch schvetza?Can you speak Dutch?

Gleh vennigh or gleh bissley – A little bit

Vie gehts? – How are you?

Sittsit unnah Sit down

Vas is letz? What is wrong?

Vesh die pattiesWash your hands

Tzeit for essahTime to eat

Vas denkscht? – What do you think?

Vas in der velt? – What in the world?

Gutte’ nachtGood night

and my favorite…

Ich liebe dichI love you

Tomorrow I’ll be wrapping up my 31 days of lessons from my Amish family. What a great journey this has been! Thanks so much for sharing the road with me. ~ Justina Dee

Click here to read more posts from my Amish series.

Sources:

The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College

Links:

Pennsylvania Dutch Phrases 

You Know You’re From Lancaster When…

First video in a series of PA Dutch lessons