LEARNING TO SPEAK PLAUTDIETSCH
Wi Leahre Plautdietsch: A Beginner’s Guide to Mennonite Low German
Isaias J. McCaffery, 166 pages
Mennonite Heritage Museum: Goessel, Kansas
This is an excellent resource for basic literacy in Low German (Plautdietsch). An introductory chapter on grammar is followed by a series of lessons and practice exercises on a variety of day-to-day topics. Verb tables are found in the Appendices. While instructions for the lessons are given only in English, the contents of most of the lessons are translated also into High German allowing the reader to discern where LG follows HG forms and where it does not. Plautdietsch differs considerably among the various regions where it is spoken, and to readers from some traditions the word forms and the orthography presented here may occasionally seem unfamiliar. But this will not impair the general usefulness and practicality of the text for most readers. (reviewed by Harold Neufeld) This book can be purchased at Amazon.
Obviously, the best way to learn to speak Plautdietsch is to hear and speak it very early in life. For many people this has not been possible. The best way to relearn and/or maintain the language is use it in conversation with others. Because Plautdietsch speakers are scattered far and wide throughout the world, and many have been assimilated into dominent language cultures; learning, relearning, or maintaining the language through exposure and conversation with other Plautdietsch speakers is often very difficult.
There are written Plautdietsch resources (Dictionaries) (Writings in Plautdietsch). In addition to dictionaries, some specialised language literacy resources are also available such as:
- Plautdietsch Grammar by Eldo Neufeld
- The Spelling of Low German and Plautdietsch by Reuben Epp
- Wie raden en lasen Plautdietsch by Peter Fast
For many, these books are of limited use in learning to speak Plautdietsch, as people need to hear the language to learn its pronunciation.
There are also audio resources (Audio files) (Other Media Resources), but these are also of limited use for those who do not understand the language.
In a very few instances, one can assemble a written text and a corresponding audio file as in Arnold Dyck's novel, Koop en Bua opp Reise which can be read in text and listened to on CD media. Reuban Epp's CD, Dit un Jant opp Plautdietsch includes a booklet with the text of the poems and stories on the CD (Other Media Resources). Elmer Reimer has produced a Plautdietsch New Testament in both written and spoken form, and both are available on the internet and can be used simultaneously.
Most recently, Herman Rempel has freely contributed his pronunciation exercise to this website. Based on his Mennonite Low German Dictionary: Kjenn Jie Noch Plautdietsch? this exercise enables you to hear Mr Rempel pronouncing the Plautdietsch words as you read them in text with their English language definition. This is found at Herman Rempel's Pronunciation Exercise .
Such resources may be very helpful to those seeking to learn or relearn spoken Plautdietsch who may read and listen at the same time, in order to experience the cadence and pronunciation of the written words.
To my knowledge, there are very few Plautdietsch learning resources available on the internet or anywhere else.
A course of study to acquire a basic level of Plautdietsch language skills, has been found, in a one volume text of weekly lessons.Wi Leahre Plautdietsch: A Beginner's Guide to Mennonite Low German by Isaias McCaffery (Sep 2 2008). This can be found on the Writings in Plautdietsch page under the resources section.
Bob Weaver of Minnesota , U.S.A. has recently let me know of an Online Plautdietsch Course being attempted by Cornelius Heinrichs of Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico. Currently Cornelius has posted some of the first 2 lessons of about 15 lessons he projects developing if there is sufficient interest from people wanting to learn Plautdietsch on the internet. I hope he will be encouraged to continue to develope his course. I do not know of any other intentional learning program on the internet.
If anyone knows of any other such programs, curriculums, texts or other intentional learning resources, please advise me. Jim Derksen
The following are email messages received at www.plautdietsch.ca from persons seeking such learning resources:
October 24, 2006
I am interested in finding out if anyone has created a self study program on learning the Low German language.
I am in the same boat as many of my contemporaries that heard Low German as youngsters but never learned to speak.
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
December 5, 2006
Thanks for your reply. I received 4 books a week ago that will help me get back on the road to learning Plautdietsch:
Plautdietsch Grammar by Eldo Neufeld
The Spelling of Low German and Plautdietsch by Reuben Epp
Kjenn Jie Noch Plautdietsch by Herman Rempel
Wie raden en lasen Plautdietsch by Peter Fast
The only thing I'm missing is pronunciation. The books are helpful with providing english words that have similar sounds but I know that these are approximations to the sounds in Plautdietsch.
It would be nice to have a basic audio program to help with this.
November 28, 2006
I was wondering if you know of any guides to learning plautdietsch in existence or in development? I'm trying to learn the language but am having trouble getting started.
March 8, 2007
Dear Jim Derksen,
By my last name you no doubt realize I am Russian/German Mennonite, but my first name probably tells you that I don't know the low german language. The reason I am contacting you is because of my unique situation. I grew up in Winkler but have since travelled the world and settled in Taber AB with my wife. I work for Lethbridge Family Services - Immigrant Services with a new office in Taber. The majority of immigrants in Taber are Mexican Mennonite, much like Winkler. However, the majority of them here have come recently (90's and continuing) and my being able to speak Plautdietsch would be an endless resource here. As you no doubt know, many Low German Mennonites are suspicious of 'outsiders' and I am nearly one of them except that my last name reveals my background to them so they will talk with me in English (those able to do so) and they like my being able to help them. I am working towards helping them by offering settlement services and a program both being funded by CIC through my Lethbridge office. I know that if I were to remain here long term, speaking their native language would be a tremendous asset. If I were to speak the language I could better help these people.
Now, there are many in Taber (business people, community workers) who want to learn the Plautdietsch/Low German language but none are willing to teach. Primarily, as you know the language is essentially an oral only language (save their KJV translation of the Bible) and resources are difficult to come by to help others to learn it. Your site encourages people to continue on in its language, but I fear that that is a shear impossibility unless a way to learn it can be established, other than being born into it, which is becoming increasingly left aside. Perhaps you have some information to help me and others or some resources? The LGM population in Taber is only growing steadily and I because I am the only govt funded individual in town my need to speak their language is strong.
Please consider my request. Information or some resources would be a tremendous help and I will find a way to repay the favour.
Good luck in your work, I will be using your website as a resource for myself, co-workers, and volunteers in the community, thank you!
January 9, 2008
I, too, am trying to find online learning resources to try and learn some basic Plautdietsch. I grew up on Somerset County, Pennsylvania and spent years with my Old Mennonite grandparents but was never smart enough to learn to speak Pa. Dutch. Now we live in southeastern Minnesota (Fillmore County) and have quite a few good friends who are Swartzentruber Amish. My wife and I have become involved in their lives (eating at their homes, they at ours, taking people places, going to ceremonies such as weddings, etc.) but neither of us speak the language. I have picked up a few phrases - just enough to be dangerous.
I am not afraid to teach myself a new language (I speak Japanese - due to study at the Defense Language Institute and two years in Japan, some Korean, some Spanish, and a few words of Arabic). I say this, not to toot my own horn, but to say I'm not intimitadated by a new language.
If you ever learn of an online program (or any other for that matter), I would sure like to know.
Thanks for your time and your work.
January 11, 2008
I ran across the following blog of a person attempting to develop an online course for Plautdietsch. You may have already looked at it, but if not here it is: oppplautdietsch.blogspot.com/
I have already downloaded his first lesson as much of the second one that his has.
Hope this helps.