Sauk County Ostf??lisch

[Male speaker interviewed by J??rgen Eichhoff, June 1968, Westfield Twp., Sauk Co.]

County: Sauk
State: WI

Many German-speakers in Wisconsin spoke two (or more) varieties of the language, their ancestral dialect (usually a form of Low German) and Wisconsin High German, which was used in schools, the press, and churches. This speaker discusses learning High German from his parents and an Eastphalian (West Low German) dialect from his peers. In many localities, multiple dialects were spoken. In this speaker's area, for example, there were also speakers of an East Low German dialect, Pomeranian. It was typical in Wisconsin for German dialects to remain distinct from one another since marriage across cultural lines was not common.
Yes, you see, my father and mother always taught me High German. Low German I learned from the neighbors. There were two kinds of Low German here, there were Hannoveraner [Ostf??lisch speakers] and the other group, from North Freedom, those were the Pomeranians. And of course, I learned from them both, I can speak High German, Low German [Ostf??lisch], and Pommersch. There's no difference, I can speak Pommersch and also Low German. I remember, when the first cars came around here, there were two old boys sitting in church, they were Pomeranians, and the old Pomeranians, they said, "Those old cars, they're pitiful things." They said, "One should just shoot the whole lot of them with revolvers." I'll never forget that, "Shoot the whole lot of them with revolvers."

Calumet County Holsteinisch

Male speaker interviewed by J??rgen Eichhoff, June 1968, New Holstein, Calumet Co

County: Calumet
State: WI

This speaker, in his native Low German dialect, discusses the migration of his ancestors from the province of Schleswig-Holstein in the far north of Germany to northeastern Wisconsin in the nineteenth century. Most immigrants were well informed about Wisconsin and how to get there before they departed from Europe.
So tell us about how it was when the first settlers came to this place; where did they come from, and what did they first do?

Well, they came from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and then they went to Hamburg and went on a sailing ship and then from there traveled on the Elbe River to the North Sea and from there to Newfoundland and then to New York, and from there they followed the river up to Albany, New York. And there they ... well, those who could afford it then traveled by train to Buffalo. Or the others put their stuff on barges and went along the Erie Canal to Buffalo, and then they went by sailing ship over the [Great] Lakes to Sheboygan.

And in Sheboygan they went with oxen and wagons overland to Plymouth and then to Greenbush, and then on the third day they arrived in Fond du Lac. And then from Fond du Lac they went by foot, usually, here to the east side of Lake Winnebago, by foot, and then to Calumetville. And there was a hotel there where they could stay until they had a place to live.

And then, let's see, on the 29th of May eleven men walked out into the country and went eleven miles until they found land where there were a lot of stones, because their relatives in Germany had said that if they found land with a lot of stones in it, the soil would be good there.

Marathon County Pommersch

Female speaker, born 1903, Hamburg, Marathon County, WI. Date/Place of Interview: June 18, 1968, Marathon County, WI. Interviewer: J??rgen Eichhoff NAGDA Record Number: EIC 20

County: Marathon
State: WI

The ancestors of most Wisconsin German dialect speakers, such as this woman, came from Pomerania, which is now located in northwestern Poland, just east of the German-Polish border. This speaker was a third- or fourth-generation Wisconsinite and a schoolteacher. She shares memories of Indians in her area, who were likely members of the Ho-Chunk tribe. By the time Germans began settling in Wisconsin in the mid-nineteenth century, the displacement of Native people by the U.S. government was already well underway, meaning that German-Indian contacts were not necessarily frequent.
Did there use to be Indians around here?

Yes, but only a few, very few. My father said that often in the winter they had, in the woods, their winter camp, and they made baskets from elm, slippery elm. And they also brought baskets and would trade them for food, bread and whatever other kinds of food there were. And often they also brought venison.

But there weren't many Indians here. Right here in this town there were also a few, and [from] this one family the boys even went to school. But even the teachers were afraid of them and did everything they could to keep from coming to school. Because they were afraid of the Indians.

Dodge County Oderbr??chisch

Autobiography of Lester W. J. "Smoky" Seifert, 1940s

County: Dodge
State: WI

Lester W. J. "Smoky" Seifert (1915-1996) was a leading figure in the development of German-American linguistics. Prof. Seifert was born and raised in Dodge County, WI, and grew up speaking the Oderbr??chisch (East Low German) dialect, High German, and English. Originally intending to become a Lutheran minister, he was educated at Northwestern College in Watertown, WI, and Brown University, and eventually became a professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most of his published research was on German in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Dutch, the subject of his doctoral dissertation. In this clip Prof. Seifert interviews himself, recounting some of his family history.
My name is Lester Wilhelm Julius Seifert. I was born in Juneau, Dodge County, that's here in Wisconsin, in 1915, on August 15th. My father, his name was Julius August Seifert. He was born in Hustisford, Dodge County, Wisconsin. My mother, her name was Anna Sophie Ernestine J. She was born near ... between Mayville and Theresa, in the year 1878, I believe, I'm not too sure about that. And my father was born in 1872, but there also I'm not too sure. My grandparents on my father's side, Grandfather Seifert, his name was August Seifert. He was born in Germany, but was just five years old when they came to the U.S., his parents. They settled near Hustisford, had a farm there, but when my grandfather was older, and he also had a farm, they sold the farms and moved to Juneau, and there we always had the same farm.

Dane County K??lsch

Male speaker interviewed by J??rgen Eichhoff, August 1968, Ashton, Dane Co.

County: Dane
State: WI

A century ago, the linguistic landscape of Wisconsin was profoundly diverse; dozens of immigrant and Native American languages and dialects were spoken across the state. Today, the state's population, as elsewhere in the U.S., is overwhelmingly English monolingual. Unfortunately, many speakers of languages other than English have viewed their heritage language as a handicap to the educational and economic success of their children, despite the real advantages -- educational and economic -- to being bilingual. This native Wisconsinite speaker of the Ripuarian German dialect from the Cologne area, close to the linguistic border between Low and High German, tells a familiar story of preferring that his children learn English only.
Where did you learn German?

Well, I learned it at home. I couldn't speak a word of English when I started school. And they couldn't ask me questions because I couldn't understand them. And now my own children don't know any K??lsch. I always said I didn't want to teach my children K??lsch or German because it's so hard to learn two languages properly, so I thought they would be better off with just English, that way they can do better for themselves, and I guess they have come much further than I have. But the kids don't think that way, they think I should have taught them K??lsch.--That's what they think?--Yes, and they wish they could speak it, that's a nice wish, but it didn't happen.

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