The near-extinct German dialect, found in… Texas, USA


Sometimes while casually browsing the internet, you’ll click a link to a Wikipedia article and somehow become stuck in the trap of clicking related links to learn more, until you find yourself at 4 in the morning, reading about something completely unrelated to the original topic. Wikipedia should come with a warning.

So it was that I discovered Texasdeutsch, or “Texas German”, a dialect of German still spoken by descendants of mid-19th century German immigrants to the Texas Hill Country region. The fact that Texas has a German immigrant population comes as no surprise; that they have an (albeit barely) extant dialect of modified German might.

According to Dr Hans Boas at the University of Texas, Texas German is mainly spoken by a few elderly German Texans, mainly in Gillespie County. He estimates there are around 1,000 speakers of Texas German remaining.

As for the dialect itself, it is mutually intelligible with European German, but with key differences that may cause confusion between native speakers of each dialect. The reason for this is that Texas German had to be adapted to the US, so many English words were “Germanicized”. Also, technological inventions and the cultural advancement of the 19th and 20th centuries required new words to be coined in Texas German, which differ from those coined by speakers of standard European German. For example, the Texas German word for airplane is Luftschiff, which means “airship” in standard German. The standard German word for airplane is Flugzeug, literally “flying thing”.