Want to learn more about Amish traditions, culture, and heritage? Want to see how The Amish Village changes over the seasons? We pack our blog with helpful articles all about the Amish culture and some news about The Amish Village.
What Languages Do the Lancaster County Amish Speak?
When you visit Lancaster County, Pennsylvania you’re likely to experience the local Amish community and their unique way of life. You might also hear the Amish speaking a language that is unique to their culture.
So what languages do the Lancaster County Amish speak? Let’s find out!
The primary language spoken by the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA is Pennsylvania Dutch – also known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Deutsch.
The dialect developed in the 18th century as a result of thousands of Germans fleeing religious persecution in Europe and settling in the central and southeastern parts of Pennsylvania. Just a small percentage of those who fled were Amish, and the language they spoke was most similar to what was spoken in the Palatinate region of Germany.
Over time the Amish language evolved through contact with English and other languages, and the result was Pennsylvania Dutch. According to scholars of the Amish culture, only 10-15% of the Pennsylvania Dutch language is derived from English. The core language is based in Palatine German, and there can be regional dialect differences among Amish communities.
Changes throughout the 20th century led to easier travel and mobility for the Amish, which caused a decline in the use of the Pennsylvania Dutch language. However, the language is still spoken heavily by the Amish in Lancaster County. They speak it to one another, However during Sunday church services the Amish speak in what’s known as High German, using a Martin Luther German Bible.
Is Swiss German the Same as Pennsylvania Dutch?
Many people think that Pennsylvania German (Pennsylvania Dutch) and Swiss German are the same language. While they do share a few similarities because of their Germanic roots, they are distinct dialects with their own unique characteristics.
In Lancaster County, the Amish speak Pennsylvania German which has been preserved through generations within their community. There is only a small minority of Swiss Amish who reside primarily in southern Indiana who speak a form of Swiss German.
In addition to Pennsylvania Dutch, many of the local Amish also speak English – especially in interactions with non-Amish individuals, for business purposes, and also for schooling.
In school, Amish children are only taught English until the 8th grade. English is most commonly used in situations where communication with the broader society is necessary. About 90 percent of Amish children have formal schooling up to eighth grade. Most attend classes in a one-room or two-room Amish schoolhouse. One teacher will typically teach all grade levels, or half of the grades if it is a two-room school. You can learn more about Amish education and tour a one-room schoolhouse during your visit to The Amish Village.
Pennsylvania Dutch Words and their English Translations
Curious what the Pennsylvania Dutch language looks like? Local news outlet LancasterOnline published a list of Pennsylvania Dutch words and their English counterparts, inspired by Dr. Mark Louden, a renowned expert on the Pennsylvania Dutch. Here are a few excerpts:
“Dappich” – adjective that means clumsy
“Rutsche” – verb that means to squirm
“Schpritze” – means to sprinkle, spray, or squirt
“Nunnermache” – “make down” (a verb that means to rain or snow)
“Was fer…” – “what kind of”
“Wie kummt sell” – “why is that”
“Mach’s licht aus” – “make the light out” (turn the light off)
Learn More about the Lancaster County Amish – Visit The Amish Village
Plan a visit to The Amish Village today!
Get a truly authentic hands-on experience learning about the Amish when you tour our farmhouse, the Village grounds, and the backroads of Amish country right here in Lancaster County.