When Hans Boas came to the University of Texas from California in 2001 to teach German, he stopped in the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, which embraces its German roots with a robust Oktoberfest and German-themed restaurants and shops.
What he heard was “Texas German,” a unique dialect that developed as German settlers came to central Texas in the 1840s. But the people who speak it are dying, so Boas is working to document the dialect before it’s too late.
Texas German is a hybrid, mostly German but altered by English, particularly words and phrases to describe new technology or uniquely American things.
Other English words are simply said with a German accent. Creek becomes “die Creek,” pronounced “crik” in Texas German. The cowboy is “der Cowboy.”
Spoken, Texas German sounds a lot like modern German. Boas said a German speaker could understand 95 percent of what’s said by a person speaking Texas German, and vice versa.
“The majority of people seem to be happy that they’re Texas German. They identify themselves as primarily Texas German. . .. They learned Texas German at home, they spoke it. But then they don’t see it as a practical asset to pass it on to the younger generations,” Boas said. “There’s still that stigma that a lot of people feel still due to the wars that German is simply not cool.”
On the Net:
Texas German Dialect Project: http://www.tgdp.org/