Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
We know of a similar course offered by Johannes Strohschänk and William Thiel at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. We'd like to hear if other such courses are being offered in other locations!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Joseph Salmons has always been struck by a frequent argument in letters to the editor, national debates and in just plain old conversations: "My great, great grandparents came to America and quickly learned English to survive. Why can't today's immigrants do the same?" With "English-only" movements cropping up and debate growing about how quickly new Spanish-speaking immigrants should learn English, the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of German decided the issue was important enough to look more deeply into the past.
Focusing on German immigrants was a logical choice, Salmons said, since they represented the biggest immigration wave to Wisconsin in the mid-1800s, "and they really fit this classic view of the 'good old immigrants' of the 19th century." In many of the original German settlements in the mid-1800s from southeastern Wisconsin to Lake Winnebago and the Fox Valley, the researchers found that German remained the primary language of commerce, education and religion well into the early 20th century. Some second- and even third-generation German immigrants who were born in Wisconsin still spoke only German as adults. "These folks were committed Americans," said Salmons. "They participated in politics, in the economy, and were leaders in their churches and their schools. They just happened not to conduct much of their life in English."
"This finding provides striking counterevidence to the claim that early immigrants learned English quickly." [The authors] also found, surprisingly, that people in contact with the Germans learned to speak German as well. In Ozaukee County, for instance, there was evidence that Irish families who lived scattered among Germans could speak German.
According to Salmons, the study suggests that conventional wisdom may actually have it backwards -- while early immigrants didn't necessarily need English to succeed and responded slowly, modern immigrants recognize it as a ticket to success and are learning English in faster than was done in the olden days.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Here are some Texas German examples as presented by Der Spiegel to its German audience, showing the strong English influence on the dialect.
Montag habe ich abgenommen - Monday I took off
mitaus - without
Wir sind nach den war nach Comfort gemoved - We moved to Comfort after the war
Die Eichkatz sitzt auf meine tools - The squirrel sits on my tools
Ich war kalt auf der porch - I was cold on the porch
The bread is all - The bread is all gone
In late February already, Germans were entertained with “Polka in Texas,” a one-hour show on WDR Weltweit, a broadcast by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk TV.
Monday, April 7, 2008
In 1848, the Northern-German duchy of Schleswig was a fiefdom of Denmark, while its neighbor, the duchy of Holstein was part of the German Confederation. When in March 1848, the king of Denmark tried to bind the two duchies closer to his Kingdom, German patriots from both provinces started an uprising against the Danish crown. Unsuccessful in their struggle, many of those Schleswig-Holsteiners immigrated to the United States, a great many of them settling in Scott County, Iowa.
In 1872, these former freedom fighters organized a veterans' society known as Der Davenporter Verein der Kampfgenossen der Schleswig-Holsteinischen Freiheitskriege von 1848, 1849 und 1850 (The Davenport Society of Veterans of the Schleswig-Holstein Wars of Independence of 1848, 1849 and 1850). Their members were the pillars of the Davenport community, and in March 1898, a stone monument commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Forty-Eighters' fight for freedom in their homeland was dedicated in Davenport’s Washington Square Park. Twelve hundred people attended the dedication ceremony. In his speech, Emil Geisler commemorated the struggle of the Forty-Eighters in their native homeland and their accomplishments in their adopted home of Iowa. He closed with the words:
"May Germania and Columbia like a pair of sisters, distinguished among the civilized nations of the world, always be united in their efforts for the welfare of their children and the distribution of the blessings of the civilization among all nations. And may the United States of America, now our blessed home, ever enjoy the blessings of peace and prosperity; and may it forever be the land of the free and the home of the brave, and its glorious banner forever wave!"
Less than two decades later, however, when anti-German sentiments during World War I were running high, the commemorative stone disappeared from Washington Square. Another ninety years later there is a renewed awareness of the accomplishments of the German Forty-Eighters and their contributions to American society, leading to the placement on March 30, 2008 of a new commemorative stone in Davenport on almost the very spot where the old one sat. More information, including historical photos and pictures from the ceremony, can be found on the Web Site of Dr. Joachim Reppmann.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The script was, of course, being taught in German-language schools in the United States. The Max Kade Institute has several primers in its collection, published in America during the 19th century, that include lessons for learning this handwriting method. We also have several collections of letters and a few diaries written in the old script.
Here’s an image of a cross-written letter from the archives of the Max Kade Institute—observe how the page was turned sideways and the writing continued, likely in an effort to save on postage as well as paper. Click on the image for a larger version and test your skills—see if you can make out “Mein liebes Mathildchen” as the greeting!
By 1941 (and by Hitler’s decree) the script was no longer being taught in German schools. Not many people who were taught the script in their youth are still around today—however, members of the Sütterlin-Schreibstube in the Förderverein Altenzentrum [Center for the Aged Support Association] in Ansgar (Hamburg, Germany) offer transliteration services from the old German script into Latin (Roman) script. More information on this service can be found here: http://www.suetterlinstube-hamburg.de/
The service provides intellectual stimulation for the members and helps make the diaries, letters, and other documents of our ancestors accessible.
We here at the Max Kade Institute are constantly wondering: How much American history is hidden in documents written by German-speaking immigrants? More researchers with skills in transcribing these scripts are needed!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Easter Fires burn every year on the Saturday evening before Easter on the hills around Fredericksburg. If you look up from the middle of town on that evening, you can see eight to twelve fires on top of the hills. Most of the fires have been built by various boy scout troops, but some families have built their own fires for many years. The family fires are mostly built out of wood, but the boy scout fires are mostly built out of lubricating oil and all kinds of rubber tires. In the weeks before the fires are lighted, the scouts look for and fetch old tires and lubricating oil. Each troop wants to have the biggest fire and each one also wants its fire to flare up first. Nowadays the people on top of the hills get a signal when they should light their fires. The signal comes from the fair grounds where a pageant is given. The pageant tells the history of the Easter Fires. It shows how hard the times in 1845 and shortly thereafter were, when the first German settlers arrived in Fredericksburg. They not only had a hard time with the weather, but also with cultivating the land; the wild Indians, mostly Comanche and Apache, often stole livestock, killed people, and dragged children away. For that reason the people were very afraid of the Indians. But that is why John Meusebach, a captain, like John Smith, wanted to make a peace treaty with the Indians. So the men went with Meusebach to the San Saba River, where the Comanche Indians were, in order to speak with them. While the men were away, the women and children were alone at home. The Indians probably also knew that the men had gone away to speak with them, since they built fires everywhere on the hills around Fredericksburg. When it was dark, a few children saw the many fires and they were afraid of them. The mother did not know at first what to do, but then she remembered the Easter Story she had learned as a child (in the old country). She knew that the children would understand the story since they had seen wild rabbits everywhere in Texas. So she told the children that the Easter Bunny and his helpers had built the fires in order to boil and dye the eggs. The little rabbits all fetched wildflowers to make the dye. The children were satisfied with the story and stayed quiet. The mother was glad that the children had fallen asleep and that she could boil the eggs so that she herself would not have to think about the Indians. So it is that every Easter the Easter Fires burn, just as there is a community Christmas tree every Christmas.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Max Kade Institute is pleased to announce the production of German Words – American Voices / Deutsche Wörter – Amerikanische Stimmen, a compact disc and bilingual companion booklet featuring German dialects historically spoken in the United States. This project was funded by a grant from the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chicago. GWAV contains twelve sound clips accompanied by commentaries and translations into English and German. There is also a bilingual introductory essay. Quoting from the introduction ...
“Deutsch zu sein, bedeutet für mich, Deutsch zu sprechen ...” (What being German means to me is being able to speak German ...). Such is a typical response to the question “Was ist deutsch?” (What is German?) posed by the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit in a recent online survey. To be sure, the ability to speak German is centrally important if one wants to feel a part of German society. But what does it mean to speak German outside of Europe?Interested? The GWAV CD and booklet may be obtained from the Max Kade Institute for only shipping and handling costs. Ordering information is available here.
In German Words – American Voices we listen to speakers of German from across the United States, Americans quite distant from their European roots in both time and space. Each is a fluent speaker of some variety of German, but as Americans at least two generations removed from immigration, all are also fluent English-speakers. Indeed, to speak a language other than English that has been passed down from one’s ancestors does not mean that one is somehow frozen in the past. Speakers of heritage languages are no less American than their English-monolingual fellow citizens; rather, they have a somewhat deeper awareness of where they come from.
The sound clips featured in German Words – American Voices hail from the three regions of the United States where varieties of German have survived the longest after immigration: Wisconsin, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin has the distinction of being the veritable buckle of the “German Belt” across the American Midwest: over forty-percent of the state’s inhabitants claim German ancestry. Deep in the heart of Texas, German-speakers in communities such as Fredericksburg and New Braunfels have also left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape. And Pennsylvania is where Pennsylvania Dutch developed, which is both the oldest German-derived language in North America and one of the very few American heritage languages overall whose speaker population is growing. ...
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.
It's interesting to see this German-American immigrant being quoted so prominently in current political debate. People in Wisconsin celebrate Schurz for his long list of remarkable accomplishments — Civil War general, US Senator, Secretary of the Interior. Less noted today is how truly radical the thrust of Schurz's political activity was — see, for one simple example, his words on "true Americanism" in the first link above.
Image from the Department of the Interior website, here.
Friday, February 8, 2008
First, some positive attention is being given to loanwords by prominent groups in Germany with this initiative (graphic from there):
"Wörter mit Migrationshintergrund"It's being supported by the Goethe Institut, Deutscher Sprachrat, Duden, and others. If you read the materials, it's aimed at celebrating immigration, and lexical borrowing.
Wir suchen das beste eingewanderte Wort.
Second, the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache publishes a journal called Der Sprachdienst. (They do Germany's Wort des Jahres and publish articles on various aspects of usage and other language topics.) In the last 2007 issue, they ran a piece by Dennis Scheller-Boltz called:
McDonald's – McAnwalt – McFit – McFlight.The piece gives a lot of interesting data on how productive the Mc- prefix is in German right now, especially in creating new company names. Surprisingly, at least from my perspective, is that it means not only that a product is cheap and fast, but also that it's of good quality.
[Cross-posted with modifications from Mr. Verb.]
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Erfrieren bei großer Kälte zu verhindern. – Es ist schon häufig vorgekommen, daß reisende Personen, besonders Fußgänger, bei strenger Kälte und in tiefem Schnee, halb müde geworden, sich niedergesetzt, Branntwein getrunken, eingeschlafen und erfroren sind. Dies zu verhüten braucht man nur auf dergleichen Reisen ein Stückchen Kampher bei sich zu führen und wenn man sich ermattet fühlt davon zu essen. Derselbe erzeugt eine solche Wärme im Körper, daß die Kräfte wiederkehren und das Leben dadurch erhalten wird.
It’s no secret that there is a certain ethnic rivalry between Luxembourgers and Germans. So often, we “Luxies” have been generically classified as Germans. And thus we continue to fight the good fight that we are uniquely ourselves and we are proud to hail from the little Grand Duchy. Though Luxembourg is so very small, we will not be pushed around by the “big guy.”
This pride in our heritage is evidenced in a humorous story appearing in Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Early Taylor County [Wisconsin], by Arthur J. Latton, 1920:
……The story is told of two former Medford [Wisconsin] men of different nationalities who found it easy to indulge in real arguments, in defending the merits of their respective fatherlands. One day the lame German, [Mr.] Lutz, was in the tavern of a Luxemburger, and as usual the argument became heated, and with each drink, a little more so. Finally, the German said he had tried to locate Luxemburg on a map of Europe, but found that a fly must have “lighted” on the map, and had obliterated Luxemburg entirely. This so angered the Luxemburg tavern man that he attempted to obliterate Lutz, and chased the limping man almost to his home on Whalen Avenue, before giving up the chase…….
Friday, January 25, 2008
However, the official history claims the German themes were accidental, or perhaps providential. In 1927 Leon Pescheret, the Union’s French-born interior designer, was inspired by the bare space to remark on its similarity to a Rathskeller, or the cellar of a German village hall, where city fathers gathered for relaxation and refreshment after work. Since the space was intended to allow for the fellowship and refreshment of students, Pescheret was given permission to transform it along the lines of a Rathskeller. The murals, with German mottoes, were created by Eugene Hausler, who had trained in Germany and was very familiar with Rathskeller décor.
The adjoining Stiftskeller, or “cellar of the founders,” was created in 1962 when more space was needed for the overly-crowded Rathskeller. While the German theme was continued, a lack of funds delayed the addition of murals until 1978 when Kurt Schaldach, a German painter living in Milwaukee, was commissioned for the job. Schaldach was born in 1913 in Danzig, and studied art there before coming to the United States in 1952. One of the most striking murals in the Stiftskeller is Schaldach’s version of the “Battle between Beer and Wine.” Based upon the mural in the Munich Rathskeller, it depicts an army of beer steins streaming out of a town to assault a contingent of gnomes employing wine and champagne bottles with cork cannonballs to defend their Rhine Valley castle.An interesting note: If one travels about 45 miles southwest from the Memorial Union to visit Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern in Monroe, one can view yet another version of this fantastical battle!
We wonder how many other of these alcohol-infused battle scenes have been inspired from the one in Munich? Let us know if you’ve seen one, and send a photo if you can!
The German craftsmen were to help accomplish the Virginia Company’s mission of manufacturing tradable goods in the new world, and establish a livable space that could accommodate England’s overpopulation. However, like most of the earliest English Jamestown settlers the German colonists perished before they could accomplish their goal or leave any significant personal mark on America. Today only archeological finds give evidence to those early attempts at manufacturing. The remnants of a “glasshouse” with three ovens made of river boulders cemented together with clay was excavated in 1948. It is believed to be the earliest European manufacturing site on American soil. There is a record of “a trial of glass” being brought back to England in December 1608, but the glass trade imagined by the Virginia Company never took off. Today the remnants of the “glasshouse,” the worksite of the first German-Americans, can be visited in Historic Jamestown: http://www.nps.gov/jame/planyourvisit/glasshouse.htm
For me, growing up in Germany, Silvester (New Year’s Eve) was a time of fun and partying with friends and family and of course good food and drink. We ate Berliner (those jelly-filled doughnuts, JFK did NOT talk about) and - living in the North – Heringsalat (herring and red beet salad). And, of course, we had a Feuerzangenbowle, that spectacle of a mulled wine drink with a burning sugar cone on top (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feuerzangenbowle). At midnight, champagne corks flew and Fourth-of-July style fireworks broke out in the neighborhoods, colorfully illuminating the skies over every city and little town at the exact same moment across the country. Now living in Wisconsin, there are no fireworks at midnight in our suburb, but we always have a Feuerzangenbowle, - which turns out to be popular among many of our American friends, too. I buy Berliner, and sometimes I even make Heringsalat, - which I mostly have all to myself.
But there is a place in America, where the whole town celebrated New Year 2008 with German traditions AND on German time (!): Harmony, Pennsylvania, founded by Lutheran pacifists from a village near Stuttgart over 200 years ago. There were German foods (the Southern kind – no Heringsalat) and German music. There were traditions of old such as Bleigießen (dissolve a soft metal – lead in the olden days - in a spoon over a candle, pour it into cold water and see clues for your future in the resulting object), and there were traditions of new (the British skit “Dinner for Two” which plays on German TV every New Year’s Eve). And at “midnight” there were fireworks!
More about “Silvester in Harmony” on the following Websites.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Are you interested in that “other” perspective on
We attempt to preserve important records that illuminate the past. But what is important—and how can we tell the seed (or the wheat) from the chaff? How can we “make new friends, but keep the old,” when there is limited room in our lives and on our shelves? How can we identify these things, when so many records were even written in a variety of foreign languages?
Recent years have seen the publication of two incomplete German-American texts: Essellen’s
Documents of the government, churches, and social organizations of many communities—especially those not written in English—have found their way to the landfill. Even personal records such as letters and diaries, which tell stories inaccessible in other forms, have been relegated to the dump by descendants who can do nothing with them. We shudder to think....
How can we go about doing a better job of rescuing the past? We face a dilemma: before long it will be too late.