As an author, I want to make my worlds authentic. However, I have to balance that with how readers read. For example, if I’m writing a romance based in Texas or in England, I don’t write the full dialect because it can be jarring and pull a reader out of the story.
And those are in English, my native tongue. The Amish speak a variation of German called Pennsylvania Dutch (some speak a variation on Swiss) as well as English. I am not versed in this dialect. In addition, as happens with any language spread out over various locations, Amish use of language has different dialects common phrases in different regions. So, I had to compromise.
As I do with my other books set in places with specific dialects and accents, with my Amish romance novels, I wanted to get a good balance of readability and yet incorporate Pennsylvania Dutch words and phrases so that readers get a good sense of being within that world. I sprinkle them throughout, and tried to use what seem to be the most common across regions, as well as the easiest idioms to understand within the context of the story.
If you read books within this genre, you’ll note that different authors spell the same words in several different ways. Each author has her or his own favorite references, and not all references use the same spellings. I preferred to go with a more phoenetic spelling approach.
For example, the word for dad I’v seen spelled (most commonly ) as daed and dat. To me, dat would take the reader less out of the story as they translated in their head.
These are the words and spellings most consistently used in my books:
- Gotte – God
- dat – dad
- mamm – mom
- mammi – grandmother
- bruder – brother
- schwester – sister
- gute – good
- boppli – baby
- fraa – wife
- mann – husband
- baremlich – terrible
- derelich – silly, idiotic
- wunderbaar – wonderful
- liebchen – darling, term of endearment
- denki – thank you
- jah – yes
- nae – no
- kumme – come
- grossmammi – grandmother
- vell – well
- for sure and certain
- it wonders me
- wondeful gute (wonderful as a way of saying “very”)
- ach vell
- ach jah
- Oh, sis yuscht – oh no, oh darn
- Ach du lieva – oh my goodness
- yet – used at the ends of sentences
- redd up – “ready up,” get ready
- rutsching around – fooling around
- schmunzla – kissing and cuddling
- oh help