As a Christian, I am interested in understanding different Christian denominations and their unique practices. I started learning about the Mennonites back in Theology School. My small research group at school and I promised to research the Mennonites through personal interactions. We had a long list of questions, and among them was to find out the language that Mennonites speak. So, last year, we packed our bags and headed to Ohio to experience the Mennonites and get answers to our questions, which was pretty fruitful. Last Friday, someone from our interdenominational online forum wanted to know which language the Mennonites speak. There were very few responses because most people were ill-informed about the topic. So, being well-versed in the topic, I offered my answer in detail. So what language do Mennonites speak?
Mennonites speak Plautdietsch, a low dialect of the German language, which is also their original language. Some Mennonites also communicate in English, especially those in Canada. Also, some Mennonites who are connected to Amish can speak Pennsylvania Dutch. However, they are not limited because they can use their national languages too.
So, join me in this article as I delve into the origin of Plautdietsch. I will also discuss other languages that the Mennonites can speak. Read on to find out more.
What are the origins of the Plautdietsch language?
Plautdietsch language originates from the Mennonites who migrated and lived in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Mennonites later moved to Danzig and Vistula, then Russia and America. These Mennonites were moving in search of religious freedom and settled there in isolation in the Netherlands for a while.
The isolation made their Low German dialect unique. However, as time went by, the language was a little influenced when Mennonites started socializing with other people. They were living under the Polish administration, which altered their language. Also, it is believed that the Russian language influenced their Low German in some way. Therefore, both Polish and Russian languages altered some linguistic parts of the Plautdietsch language. So, as Mennonites kept moving into parts like North and South America, they carried this unique Low German language with them and used it to date.
What country are Mennonites originally from?
Mennonites are originally from Switzerland. In Switzerland, they first lived in Zurich. However, they had to flee the country due to religious persecution. They went to settle in the western parts of Europe, where their religious beliefs were accepted. Later in the 20th Century, they were sent out of Russia and had to go to America. They currently live in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kansas, among others.
Do Mennonites Speak Pennsylvania Dutch?
A tiny percentage of Mennonites speak Pennsylvania Dutch. Pennsylvania Dutch is a language native to Amish people, and even most of the Amish are losing it due to integration with the mainstream. The Mennonites who speak Pennsylvania Dutch are most likely to have blood relatives with Amish, which is so possible. The Amish and Mennonites were once the same group until they disagreed on some doctrines and split. Some who were related went into different groups. The Mennonites who can speak Pennsylvania Dutch fluently are those who were raised by Amish parents in most cases.
Most Mennonites do not speak Pennsylvania Dutch because the language was invented by the Amish, just like they have their own, Plautdietsch. The Amish were always in isolation, making them maintain a High German dialect even as the world was changing, and they unintentionally came up with the Pennsylvania Dutch language. The Mennonites could not learn this language through any form of, say, generationally passing it down because Mennonites might have predated the Amish. By the time Pennsylvania Dutch was among the Amish, Mennonites were long formed and gone separately. In addition, in the new world, it is rare to find the two groups socializing because Amish are so much more isolationist than Mennonites.
Can Mennonites speak High German well?
There are some Mennonites who can speak High German well, and it all depends on their geographical Areas. Most of the Mennonites who speak perfect German may be residing in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. High Germany is mostly used in formal settings among them.
What language do Mennonites speak in Canada?
Canadian Mennonites speak English largely in their daily lives, and those from old colony Mennonites use Low dialect German in their homes. In Canada, many immigrants choose to convert and join Mennonites, which leads them to have most of their services in English. Most of the Mennonite immigrants are Chinese, Ethiopians, and Hispanics. So for common understanding, especially in sermons and at school, English is used widely.
However, as I mentioned earlier, old colony Mennonites want to preserve their Low German Dialect, Plautdietsch. Most Mennonites who use this language in Canada can trace their ancestry in Russia and Ukraine. However, it is heavily used at home, unlike English, which is used almost everywhere.
Do Mennonites speak English as well?
Some Mennonites may speak English well enough, and just like German, it highly depends on where they are settled. Mennonites who are settled in English-speaking Zones like USA and Canada may be able to communicate in good English. When Mennonites moved to North America, their language was impacted by their Neighbourhood and other factors that involved them communicating with non-Mennonites. By the 19th and end of the 20th CenturyCentury, most Mennonites had adopted English as part of the languages they could use to communicate.
Also, the Mennonites who live in Canada may be able to speak good English because it is an English-speaking zone. The fact that Mennonites in Canada are made up of more mixed communities like Chinese, Ethiopians, etc., could be a reason they choose to use English to understand each other. In the process of using English in their formal communication, they may become good speakers.
What other languages can Mennonites speak?
The Mennonites can speak several languages that depend on where they reside. So they can speak;
Some Mennonites live in communities that speak Spanish, which may have influenced them to use Spanish alongside their ancestral languages. Most Mennonites who speak Spanish live in Mexico, Bolivia, Belize, and Paraguay.
French is also spoken by Mennonites who have settled in French-speaking areas. Some Mennonites live in France, where the primary language is French makes it almost impossible for them not to speak French. Also, there are Mennonites who still live in their original home, Switzerland, specifically in the French-speaking zones of the country. Lastly, some Mennonites who live in Canada in areas where French is used more than English use French as their language.
Russian or Ukrainian
Mennonites who came from Russia may speak the Russian language. Also, those who came from Ukraine may speak Ukrainian.
Mennonites who live in Brazil speak Portuguese.
There are Mennonites who remained in the Netherlands, and they speak Dutch.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.