Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Germans take notice of German in the U.S. Part I - Texas German

Over the last couple of years, interest in things German-American has grown in Germany. People are curious about of what became of those German emigrants and their descendants. They are intrigued that German customs can still be found all over America and are fascinated by the fact that German dialects are still spoken in some parts of the U.S. Yesterday, for example, the German magazine Der Spiegel ran a two-part article on Texas German in its online edition: “Kuriose Sprachinsel – Man spricht Texas-Deutsch.” (A curious linguistic enclave – Texas German spoken here). The article describes the work of the Texas German Dialect Project (TGDP), an umbrella organization for carrying out research in representative Texas German speech communities in central Texas. Housed at the University of Texas-Austin, and currently led by Associate Professor of Germanic Linguistics Hans Boas, the project strives to preserve the Texas German dialect, to gather basic research information about the language variety, and to use the material collected in research projects for the improvement of educational programs about language and culture. Since Texas German—like so many other heritage languages—has not been passed on to younger generations for the last decades, the number of native Texas German speakers is shrinking drastically, and it is estimated that the dialect will become extinct by 2040.
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.

Image1: Prof. Boas speaking with Texas Germans (from http://www.spiegel.de/); Image2: Texas-German polka player (from http://www.wdr.de/)

1 comment:

TootsNYC said...

When I studied German in college, I tried to write some letters home, and when at home, I tried to say the odd sentence here and there in German.

This amused my mom, who had done well in German in college, because now and then I'd get to the end of the sentence and not be able to think of the verb--hence, something like "gemoved."

My mother called it "Benny Hill" German.