Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Hey there Amish girl


I grew up bilingual, which means I speak and write two languages equally well (or maybe not so much!) and both feel like my native language to me. I often can’t tell what language I’m speaking, writing, hearing. It’s a bit tricky sometimes when I’m working on my posts as foreign words slip into my texts and I just can’t see it. The second language comes from my mother. My grandparents moved to the states when she was 12. They never spoke english at home, but my mother picked up english fairly fast. However, she still has an accent. We spoke my mother’s language at home unless dad was home. We also spoke it in public unless dad was there. Actually, we only spoke english with my dad. I have a partial accent in both languages. It’s quite funny because I actually don’t have it, it just comes out when I’m talking fast or when I’m confused, not sure which language to speak. I have this accent in both languages, in each from the other.

Growing up this way in the movement was strange to say the least. Us kids faced a lot of comments and challenges that the others didn’t.

The very first problem was the fact that we as kids were so used to not speaking english with each other in public that we never even thought it might bother anyone. After all, some people spoke spanish in public, so why shouldn’t we speak different as well? It seemed alright. But a lot of times, it wasn’t alright. People talked to us in a strange way, as if we didn’t speak much english. When we went to fundamentalist conventions, we didn’t really find many friends. I think a lot of times parents kept their children away from us as they considered us Amish. We had a hard time finding friends. And when people were nice to us, they seemed to try to convert us to their beliefs and away from our supposed Amish environment. In fact, we were never Amish and I have never even talked to an Amish person in my life (that I know of).

On other occasions, we were told by other people who knowing a second language was great as it would make missioning so much easier. My dad lived in the mindset that the American way was the only way Christ said things should be done. If you weren’t American, you weren’t a christian. And in reverse, if you weren’t a strong christian, you weren’t a real American. I know this hurt my mother a lot as she loved her European home and until this day wishes she could return at some point, retire there, buy a little house and die where she felt home. There were days were she was very homesick, even 20 years after leaving, and she would tell us kids stories about her youth at home. I tried to balance my mom’s stories with the view my dad had on other countries and the fundies had on those people needing to be missioned, but it never added up. What was I supposed to do, sell them glass pearls and show them the truth? I always struggled between loyalty with my mom and my dad at the same time.

I’m not saying we were cast out by society and everybody looked down on us. Not by any means! We could integrate very well (at least into the fundamentalist movement, haha) and we were mostly accepted as just another family.

After I left the movement, I had a great desire to find out more about my mom’s home. We still had (and have) family there, my mom’s sister lives there and has a family, so we always had contact to people back home.

I quickly developed the same dream my mom had: Return some day, buy a house and just live merrily in a place that sounded like “home”, like a safe haven, far away from the troubles with my family. I think I’ll have to write an entirely new post about that…

7 thoughts on “Hey there Amish girl

  1. Jealous! I hope your mom gets her dream.

  2. I always wished my family had spoken two languages… That is something beautiful you got from your childhood! I have a feeling you’ll travel to your mother’s home country some day, and you will be able to communicate.. How incredible!

    • It took me a while to realize just how lucky I got learning two languages growing up. When it’s a daily thing, it doesn’t seem that special anymore.
      I have actually been there already and loved it – and still love it! Very different but somehow already familiar.

  3. Wow, I was also raised bilingual! My mom is from Germany, and when she dressed my sister and me in matching pioneer type dresses I bet people thought we were Amish, especially after hearing us talk, haha. It’s so funny the type of Christian Nationalism many fundies subscribe to, and how having experience with another culture lets you see how sad and limiting such a worldview is. But when your faith is all wrapped up in patriotic sentiments how can one not feel torn? Hugs.

    • Hah! Yes exactly the same for me!
      I actually read some information about the german the amish speak and it’s very different from the actual european german today. I think you could communicate but have some troubles understanding each other… kind of like american english and jamaican english I guess.
      I felt very torn especially when my dad expressed how terrible the things done in WW2 were (which they were, no questions asked here) and then looking at my mother, trying to see her as a part of that… it just didn’t work for me. I feel like my dad might have insulted her deeply with that, but she never showed just how hurt she was.

      • It’s like, all Nazis were German, but not all Germans were nazis! Learning about my family history during that time made me feel proud. I have relatives drafted from both sides during the war, but in very exotic fronts (Poland, Japan). My great grandpa lost his job as a postman because he refused to join the nazi party, and so my grandma grew up in poverty. My grandpa’s family hid refugees in their barn. This all makes me very proud and I feel kinda honored to come from people like that! The Germans are quite sensitive about their history and I’m sure it grated on your mother quite a lot. After all, her family suffered, too! I hope you learned all you could about your family history from your mother, while you were still able!

  4. You are extremely lucky to have two languages & two cultures, something I really wish I had. And BTW your dad is an *** for being like that & not even thinking about how his wife felt when he expressed his beliefs. I hope you can go back to your home country someday, and perhaps take your mom with??

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