Dutch speakers find resources on the most translated website in the world | News, Sports, Jobs
The most translated website in the world – jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses – includes content in more than 1,040 languages, including many native languages that have limited written resources.
Among them is Pennsylvania German, often referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch. Although the language was more widespread a century ago, it is still spoken by approximately 400,000 people in the United States and Canada, primarily among Amish and Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.
Jane Zimmerman, who grew up speaking Pennsylvania Dutch at her Lancaster home, has noticed less enthusiasm for the language among younger generations. “My daughter is impressed that we still speak Dutch” she says. “She noticed that her friends were listening to a sermon in Pennsylvania German, and then right after they were all speaking English.”
Even among fluent speakers, few are learning to read and write their native language, in part due to a lack of written material. This includes a full Pennsylvania Dutch Bible translation, which is now available but not yet commonly found in native speaking homes.
For Jane’s husband, Jerry, the Pennsylvania Dutch resources on jw.org, including the complete Bible, have helped him embrace his culture while deepening his faith. “It’s moving to see how language is attached to culture,” he explained. “We speak English, but it’s a foreign language for us. It is the language of our heart.
“Translation is a labor of love for everyone involved and for our organization,” said Robert Hendriks, the American spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The work is demanding and time-consuming. But our goal isn’t to make a profit, it’s to deliver the comforting message of the Bible clearly and to the point to as many people as possible.
Sharing the Bible’s message of hope and comfort in local Dutch communities in Pennsylvania has been a powerful experience for the Zimmermans.
“When people hear their native language, we get smiles,” said Jerry.
“I love seeing the person’s facial expression when they see a video in their language and seeing how happy they are.” said Julianne, the Zimmermans’ 12-year-old daughter. In addition to short videos, jw.org has two feature films about the lives of Daniel and Nehemiah available in Pennsylvania Dutch.
Native speakers can read the Bible online and find many other written and audio resources on the website, including a helpful section called Answers to Bible Questions. “The message is simple, easy to understand and the audio is made by someone who speaks very well”, said Jerry.
“Most of my generation have some sort of cell phone, so I love pointing out the website to Pennsylvania Dutch speakers,” said Julia Zimmerman, 22. “They are shocked. It just puts a smile on their face.
Visit jw.org for resources in Pennsylvania Dutch or any of 1,048 other languages.