Schwetz Mol Deitsch! PA Dutch in Spotlight

The PA Dutch dialect is normally thought of as being an American spoken language, most notably by the Amish, but in reality, PA Dutch is spoken by a broader audience than just the bonnet and buggy demographic.  Indeed, in America, there are mainstream practitioners of the language, enthusiasts who keep it alive in their otherwise modern lifestyle.  

In truth, PA Dutch, or at least the Germanic root of the dialect, is still celebrated and preserved outside the US as well.  In Germany, there are cultural clubs and social and fraternal associations dedicated to the “Pfaelizisch Dialect” (PA Dutch’s linguistic source.)  One such club in Germany recently awarded it’s “Emichsburg Prize” to Douglas Madenford.  This was the first time in the club’s history that someone outside of Germany has been bestowed the honor.  

Madenford is a native speaker of PA Dutch, having grown up on a farm in Berks County (Lancaster County’s northern neighbor, which was actually the site of America’s first Amish settlement, though the Amish community would move south out of Berks after a short time.)  His grandparents and parents spoke PA Dutch in the home, so he naturally grew up bilingual, “Deitsch” and English.  

Besides now being an Emichsburg Prize winner, Madenford is a German language teacher (the “high-German” variety) in both High School and University classrooms.  He’s a musician, playing in a mountain-folk-style band, the Broken Spokes.  Naturally, he’s also a great enthusiast of PA Dutch language and culture, maintaining a website dedicated to the language, while also being a podcaster, author, and blogger.  His how-to book on learning PA Dutch, SCHWETZ MOL DEITSCH! AN INTRODUCTORY PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COURSE is available from Masthof Press & Bookstore ( Madenford’s website dedicated to all things PA Dutch can be accessed at 

— Clinton Martin