The Amish of America speak a hybrid dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German. It is a Germanic language with a good amount of English mixed in.
If you sit and listen to two Amish speaking, you may be surprised that what seems like every fifth or tenth or twentieth word is actually English. Occasionally you find you can sort of follow along as they speak.
PA Dutch is a largely unwritten language. When the Amish write notes and letters to one another, they usually use English.
But the typical Amish child will not speak much or any English until he or she reaches school age. PA Dutch is the first language they learn as toddlers, and the language that most Amish are most comfortable conversing in. Once in school, the teacher, who is almost always Amish, teaches the children English, and all lessons are held using English as a base language.
In fact, many if not most Amish are actually trilingual, because in addition to English and ‘Dutch’, they speak and understand High German, which is the language their Bibles are written in and the language typically used in their church services.
The Amish are not the only ones who have been known to speak PA German, though they are the largest group. Speakers of the dialect, including Mennonites and non-Amish, have been found historically in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania, as well as in the Shenandoah valley region stretching south through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
External linguistic Amish resources
- Erik Wesner is an expert on the Amish. In fact he even wrote this post. Please go to his site Amish America he even has a great post called,
- Answer about Amish language and culture. Erik even has a real live Amish man sometimes answering questions, I think he has a computer hidden in his barn or something, really.
- The following this Amish language , to listen to a sample recording of Pennsylvania Dutch.