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Learn Pennsylvania German language this fall

Learn Pennsylvania German, the language now most associated with the Plain communities but once spoken widely by descendants of German Lutheran and Reformed immigrants as well

Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society offers beginning and intermediate courses in Pennsylvania German, September through November.

Lancaster, Pa.— Preservation of the distinctive language tradition of early German immigrants to Lancaster County continues at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. “Butch” Reigart will serve as the instructor for two ten-week courses on different levels this fall.

A beginner class will meet on Thursdays, September 14 to November 16, 7 to 9 p.m. An intermediate class is also offered Saturdays, September 16 to November 18, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Both classes take place at 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, on Route 30 (Lincoln Highway East), beside Tanger Outlet Center. Those familiar with German have an advantage and can usually start at the intermediate level.

Pennsylvania German originated in the southeastern region of the state, coming from the German-speaking Swiss, German, and Alsatian immigrants who arrived between 1683 and 1808.

Linguistically, Pennsylvania German is interesting. While the languages spoken by many small minority communities are disappearing, Pennsylvania German is quickly growing. Much of this expansion is caused by its association with the Plain communities, Amish and Old Order Mennonites, but this has not historically been the case. The Church people—Lutheran and reformed—outnumbered them greatly.

Reigart notes, “the Amish percentage of current dialect speakers is ever increasing as the Amish continue to hold onto and teach it to their children as part of their efforts to maintain separation from the modern world.”

Reigart, who lives in Columbia, Pennsylvania, grew up hearing Pennsylvania German in his childhood home in York County. He later became fluent, received degrees in German and Russian, and served as a foreign-language specialist for the United States government for more than thirty-five years.

Registration can occur online at www.lmhs.org or by calling (717) 393-9745. Basic instructional materials are included in the course fee of $100 for Historical Society members and $115 for nonmembers. Supplemental texts, dictionaries, recordings, and other study aids are available from the Society bookstore.

These classes are part of over fifty Lancaster Roots 2017 events. Lancaster Roots combines the events of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and the 1719 Herr House & Museum. Through public presentations, food, music, field trips, and classes, these events reveal Lancaster and its people: their stories, culture, and history.