the project

Current status

From the 30th of June the Kutztown Folkfestival starts again, where
We filmed last year.

The film is almost finished and the first film festival submission deadlines are approaching. Keep your fingers crossed that the movie will soon be at a film festival. After that, the cinema tour in Germany and in the summer next year, the US tour, will start. Of course we will se us at the Kutztown Folk Festival again.

Interested parties and sponsors can contact us at any time (

In the following, we will show you a section of our project brochure, which you are welcome to request from our e-mail address.

Hiwwe wie driwwe - Eine Dokumentation über die pfälzische Kultur und Sprache in der Pfalz und in Amerika.

July 2017. A Volksfest in the USA – the Kutztown Folk Festival. The people are celebrating, there is  live music, presentations, traditional food and booths that sell various items.

We are somewhere in the USA, but the language sounds strangely familiar. It is the  Pennsylvanian German Day – a day where people remember their Palatinate and Electoral Palatinate roots.

Douglas Madenford

This is where we meet Douglas Madenford. He is a German language teacher, musician and YouTuber from Kutztown, PA. Douglas speaks Pennsylvania Dutch – a language rooted in the old Palatinate dialect from 200 years ago and throughout the years constantly extended with English words and terms. During this film Doug will take us to follow the traces of the Palatine dialect and culture in his own home as well as in his old home – the Palatinate. Throughout this journey he will meet many people who will be helping him to explore his roots. How did this dialect end  up in the USA in the first place? Which aspects of the Palatine dialect and culture can still be  found in the modern American life? Are there any similarities left? Doug will take us to a school where people are learning Pennsylvania Dutch.

We will find traces for Palatine traditions while visiting his parent‘s farm and at a living history  museum we will learn more about the people who came here from the old world. We will also  stumble across further local traditions and influences rooted in the Palatinate, such as the Groundhog Day, street names, buildings, words and terms and foods. Finally, Doug will travel to Germany to find many similarities, as well as differences between the Palatinate and his Pennsylvanian home. After visiting The Museum of Emigration he will meet a Mundart artist. While visiting a local farm and a Saumagen restaurant which still cooks after one of the oldest known traditional recipe he learns more about the typical Palatine life which has many parallels to his life in Pennsylvania.

His journey through the Palatinate will highlight with him performing songs in Pennsylvania Dutch from his American home.




Persönliche Motivation

When we one day heard that “our” dialect is also spoken outside of the Palatinate we got instantly curious about it. Speaking to other locals we then realized that this fact is not really  known around here. However everyone was at least as fascinated by it as we were. Enough of a reason for us to tackle this issue.

During our conversations with Doug we noticed that the fascination with this topic also exists on the other side of the Atlantic. Many people over there do not really know anything about their  Palatine roots or the life over here.

Spurensuche mit Doug

During our research for this topic we found Douglas Madenford. He is 36, father of two and German language teacher in Pennsylvania. The carpenter‘s son grew up on a small farm in Berks County (PA) were his parents grew their own vegetables and kept chickens, pigs and turkeys. His parents spoke Pennsylvania Dutch while growing up which led to him being raised bilingual. Also there were Pennsylvania Dutch speaking farmers in his neighborhood.

Unbenannt-2Today he is committed to the preservation and spreading of this language. Besides uploading various videos to YouTube explaining the language and everyday life of the  Pennsylvania Dutch speaking community he is also  co-editing the newspaper “Hiwwe wie Driwwe” (written in Pennsylvania Dutch). Additionally he and Chris LaRose  formed a two-men band which performs songs written in Pennsylvania Dutch. In this band Doug not only sings, but  also plays mandolin and banjo. Together with him we are going to search for traces in Pennsylvania and the  Palatinate.

Filmische Form

In ca. 90 Minuten soll auf humorvolle und herzliche Art die Geschichte der Pfälzer in Amerika erzählt werden – eben ganz so, wie Pfälzer nun mal sind. Wenn wir Doug auf der Spurensuche mit einer dynamischen Handkamera begleiten, erfahren wir verschiedene Aspekte der Sprache und der Kultur, hier in der Pfalz und auf der anderen Seite des Atlantiks. Doug ist dabei die Hauptfigur, aus dessen Sicht wir die Geschichte erleben.

Mit Menschen wie Chris LaRose, seinem musikalischen Partner oder Dave Borntrager, einem amerikanischen Auswanderer der Neuzeit, der in der Pfalz seine neue Heimat gefunden hat, tauchen auch weitere Nebenfiguren auf. Gesprochen wird natürlich Pennsylvania Dutch und Pfälzisch, aber auch Deutsch und Englisch, je nach Gesprächspartner. Damit auch Menschen außerhalb des Pfälzischen bzw. Pennsylvania Dutch Sprachraums alles verstehen können, werden wir mit Untertiteln arbeiten.

Somit bleibt die Sprache hörbar. Auf einen Sprecher möchten wir verzichten. Für die historischen Fakten wird unser Experte Dr. Michael Werner, ein pfälzischer Sprachwissenschaftler, in einer Interview- Situation vieles erklären. Um Fakten und Zusammenhänge visuell interessant und spannend zu erzählen, arbeiten wir mit zusätzlichen 2D-Animationen. Einfache Hauptfiguren verdeutlichen das Leben der Auswanderer im Laufe der Jahrhunderte.

Wissenschaftliche Beratung

img_1527_Michael Werner, PhD is a linguist from Ebertsheim, living in Ober-Olm. He has been  working with and studying this topic since 1993. In 1996 he founded the magazine “Hiwwe wie Driwwe” which is being published in Kutztown twice a year with a circulation of  2.500 copies, as well s in an online blog. The magazine features  authors from both, Pennsylvania and Germany.

Since 1993 he also maintains a German-Pennsylvanian archive which contains about 1.500  books and more than 16.000 texts written in Pennsylvania Dutch. In 2017 the Mennonite  Research Center in Weierhof (Palatinate) started to transfer this archive into their new Michael  Werner Collection.


During the 17th century many Germans settled in Pennsylvania, which later became a US state. They usually were Protestants like Lutherans, Reformed people, Mennonites or Amish. Many of the emigrants originated in the Palatinate. When they came to the new world they brought their language with them and they kept it throughout the centuries, so that it almost did not get mixed up with English, which explains why it is still so similar to the Palatine German dialect. Many of the people in these areas still speak Pennsylvania Dutch today.

However the Palatinate is not the only region from where people emigrated. Other areas along the river Rhine included the Electoral Palatinate, Rhenish Hesse or Baden. The Rhine used to be the only reasonable way to get to Amsterdam and from there to the USA which one of the reasons why there are not many emigrants from other German areas like Bavaria. After World War I times slightly changed because Americans did not want to hear the German language in their country. However today‘s generation reflects more and more on its roots and tries to find out where the strange culture and language their grandfather still speaks comes from.

About 400.000 people still speak Pennsylvania Dutch today. 80% of the speakers belong to the very conservative Old Amish Order or the Old Order Mennonites. Both groups renounce modern technology and still use carriages for transportation purposes. But there are also about 10.000 modern Americans between the ages 65 and 90 who grew up bilingual and therefore still speak Pennsylvania Dutch. In contrast: The Palatinate and its adjacent areas (Electoral Palatinate, Southern Hesse, Rhenish Hesse, Kraichgau, Alsace and Lorraine ) only have about 1.500.000 palatine German dialect speakers

Weiter Infos auf Anfrage

A further version of our project is available on request.