Friday, July 31, 2009

Pennsylvania German Dialect class

Kutztown University offers a credit class in the Pennsylvania German dialect. The Introduction to the dialect class is held in the Fall semester, and the Advanced class is offered in the Spring semester. Senior citizens who are retired can register for free.

Contact the university for further information - 610-683-4000 or

The university also has a program of other related classes about Pennsylvania German heritage.

Kutztown Folk Festival

This year, I finally made it to the Kutztown Folk Festival! I went on Sunday, July 5, the last day of the week-long festival. I've wanted to go for so many years and never was able to go. I wasn't there for too long, but it was very enjoyable. Kutztown is a small town in Berks County, which lies directly west of Lehigh County. Many of its original settlers were Pennsylvania German farmers.

One speaker, I think it was Dr. Donner from Kutztown University, said that the festival is in its 60th year. It is called a "folklife" festival rather than "folklore" festival, because it highlights the culture by showing the way people live, such as crafts and farming. The word "folklore" seems more limited to just words and stories.

At the festival, I ran into Frank Shuler and his wife Janice from my Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch Freind (Pennsylavania German Friends organization). They told me that Paul Kunkel was going to be speaking in the Seminar tent, and I was very happy to hear that. Paul has been a leader in Pennsylvania German cultural education for many years. He was my teacher in a Pennsylvania German class, in a Groundhog Lodge course, almost twenty years ago!

I really enjoyed Paul's talk - about Pennsylvania Dutch superstitions. What made it interesting is how he related it to what family members told him as he was growing up. So much more real than reading about these things in books! Then he told a story in the dialect, as a friend of his translated. That was delightful - I could compare the sounds of each sentence in German and English. That helped me learn more of the dialect - somehow it seemed easier to understand this way. Perhaps because the sentences were broken down one-by-one, I didn't lose the gist of the story as easily.

The other speakers I heard were interesting also - topics were: One-room schoolhouses, quilts, jokes, and Pennsylvania Germans in the Civil War. The Pennsylvania German Society sponsored the Seminar Stage presentations, and it was evident how much work went into the preparation by all involved.

The daily Seminar Stage talks are listed in the Festival Program as follows:

Bill Meck & Leroy Brown, Dialect Humor

Keith Brintzenhoff, Traditional PA Dutch Music

Meet the Mennonites, Mike Rhoads

Schooling, Dr. Bill Donner

Spirituality, Dr. Harry Serio

Pennsylvania German Society Speakers

Paul Kunkel – Folk Beliefs

Leroy Brown – Life of a Dutchman

Amy Lindenmuth, Quilts

Bill Meck & Leroy Brown, Dialect Humor

Crafts of the Festival and Cultural Events, Dr. Bill Donner

I got to experience a little of the rest of the festival - crafts, food and music. I hope to go again next year to see more. A big thank-you to all who made the Festival possible! For more information, go to their website:

Macungie event in August

Event in Macungie

August 30th - 9 a.m.

Solomon's United Church of Christ, Macungie

Paul Kunkel and others to speak

Welcome to the Pennsylvania Germans of the Lehigh Valley blog!

The Lehigh Valley area lies in eastern Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River. Pennsylvania Germans settled in this area in the 1700s, establishing many farms and towns. They speak a dialect which has evolved over time through a mixture of the dialects brought by the immigrants from their villages. Most people came from land that is now part of the country of Germany, which was established in the 1800s. I think that many came from the southwest corner of Germany, and across the border, in Austria. (I am not a historian, so please feel free to add any relevant information.)

Please feel free to comment on the culture, history and dialect of Pennsylvania Germans in this area and beyond. Memories of growing up in a Pennsylvania German setting are always interesting! Special foods that were prepared, or sayings - little things that made up daily life- are wonderful to hear about!

Also please post invitations to relevant events or activities. Your post can be written in the dialect or in English. If you'd like to enter a link to another Pennsylvania German or related organization, please do so.

If you can write your post or comment in the dialect, that would be great! I would if I could. The inclusion of a summary or translation into English can be helpful. Thank you!