The language we are exploring this month is Pennsylvania German, which is commonly known as Pennsylvania Dutch. We received some requests recently for this more rare language, and it piqued our interest to learn more about it.
According to Elizabethtown College, today’s Pennsylvania Dutch developed in the 18th century when approximately 81,000 German-speaking immigrants came to southeastern Pennsylvania from Central Europe, including Switzerland. A small percentage of these immigrants were Amish. The resulting language for the Amish, Pennsylvania German (now Dutch), most closely resembles the dialect of German spoken in Palatinate near the city of Mannheim. English has a small influence on the language, as only 10-15 percent of it comes from English.
There are an estimated 300,000 native speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch in the United States and Canada.
Interestingly, Pennsylvania Dutch is mostly spoken among one another and during church services. English is mostly used speaking with non-Amish, and when reading and writing. Schools are taught in English. However, maintaining Pennsylvania Dutch and standard German remains an important part of the Amish identity and culture.