Skip to content

En Amischi Schul / An Amish School

This is an excerpt from an interview with an Amish woman from Elkhart County, IN, who had been a school teacher before she was married. She was born in 1956 and interviewed by Prof. Jürgen Eichhoff in 1984, as part of a larger project led by Prof. Wolfgang W. Moelleken (now retired from the University at Albany). The full interview is part of the Moelleken Collection in the North American German Dialect Archive at the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (consultant number MOE 203). The content of this excerpt addresses the topic of language use in Amish parochial schools. Although all Amish pupils and teachers speak Pennsylvania Dutch natively, English is the medium of instruction in their schools, and many teachers require children to use English during recess also. Standard German is a subject in many Amish schools, though children learn only enough to be able to read and recite from the Bible, prayer books, and hymnals.

 

In’s Jaahr vun ’77 to ’79 dann waar ich an Schul tietsche gwest. Mir hen als browiert in die Schul geh bis … net schpeeder as halwer acht hen mer gegliche datt sei, so as mir die Lessons un Schtoff schtoddie kenne fer seller Daag un alles reddi hawwe bis die Kinner kumme an acht Uhr. Sie waare als net supposed kumme eb die acht Uhr. Noh hen sie als usually gschpielt bis halwer nein wann unser Schul noh gschtaert hot. Noh hen mer als die Bell grunge. S’ waar en eeschtubbich Schulhaus un mir hen all acht Grades ghatt, es waare zwee von uns Tietschers. Ich hett dei 5 through 8 ghadde. Un s’erscht Ding meigeds hen mir als unser Devotions ghatt, mir hen als en Prayer ghatt, noh hen mer als en Bible Story glese adder dann hen mir als gsunge. Usually hen mir Englisch gsunge, alsemol hen mer Deitsch gsunge. Noh hen mer usually gschtaert mit Rithmetic un noh Reading. Zehe Uhr hen mer Recess ghatt. Noh waer’s … halwer zwelf hedde mer Middaag ghatt noh hen sie als en Schtund schpiele daafe. Un mer hen Rithmetic un Reading un Writing un Spelling; History … 7th un 8th hot History ghatt. Un 5th un 6th hot Geography ghatt. Noh hen mer … alli Freidaag hen mer German ghatt. Muundaag meigeds hen mer als browiert en Bible Verse uffs Board schreiwe as die Kinner supposed waare memorize bis freidaags, noh waare sie all supposed s’wisse by heart. Un die Classes, dann … wann mer Classes ghadde hot, dann hen sie immer misse Englisch schwetze, s’waar alles Englisch. Un uff Recess dann waare sie aa supposed Englisch schwetze. Alsemol waare … sin sie sadde weg gecarried wadde un hen als Deitsch gschwetzt. Noh hen mer als misse sadde … sadde en Game schpiele mit sie fer, oh, vielleicht sie so viel Schticker Welschkann gewwe adder ebbes un wann mer sie gecatcht hen Deitsch schwetze dann hen mer … hot seller Person daafe en Welschkannkann wegnemme vun sie un noh vielleicht bis End vun die Woch gucke wer s’menscht ghadde hett. Awwer noh fer en Treat alsemol dann hen mer sie glesst ebaut die letschte sechs Woche vun’s Schulyaahr hen mer sie glesst Deitsch schwetze.

 

From ’77 to ’79 I was teaching school. We [teachers] tried to get to school no later than 7:30, that was when we wanted to be there so that we could study the lessons and stuff for that day and have everything ready by the time the kids came at 8 o’clock, they weren’t supposed to come before 8. Then they usually played until 8:30 when school started and we would ring the bell. It was a one-room schoolhouse and we had all eight grades [in there]. There were two of us teachers, I had [grades] five through eight. And as the first thing in the morning we had our devotions and we had a prayer and read a Bible story or then we would sing. Usually we sang in English, sometimes we sang in German. Then we usually started with arithmetic, then reading. At 10 o’clock we had recess, then at 11:30 we’d have lunch, then they were allowed to play for an hour. And we had arithmetic and reading and writing and spelling, history, seventh and eighth had history, fifth and sixth had geography. Then every Friday we had German, and Monday morning we’d try to write a Bible verse on the board that the kids were supposed to memorize by Friday, then they were supposed to know it by heart. And when we had classes they were supposed to speak only English, it was all English, and at recess they were supposed to speak English too. Sometimes they got sort of carried away and would speak Pennsylvania Dutch, then we [teachers] had to sort of play a game with them, to give them, oh, so many kernels of corn, so if we caught them speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, that person would have a kernel taken away from them, and at the end of the week we would see who had the most kernels. But for a treat sometime, for about the last six weeks of the school year we would let them speak Pennsylvania Dutch.