Plain Talk About Health: Linguistic Aspects of Mediation between Amish and Mennonites and Health Care Professionals

Mark L. Louden


As the population of Amish and Old Order Mennonites grows exponentially, so are the contacts between Plain people and medical professionals increasing. All Plain adults are bilingual; however, the fact that the primary everyday language for most is Pennsylvania Dutch is important for understanding how they navigate the health care system. In this article I give an overview of language-related questions involved in communication between Plain people and health care providers with a focus on three areas: translation, interpretation, and patterns of language use. Much of the information I present in this article is drawn from my experience as an interpreter and cultural mediator for Plain people in a number of different public spheres, mainly health care.


Pennsylvania Dutch language; health care; bilingualism; translation; interpretation; language contact; language use; Amish; Old Order Mennonites

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Copyright (c) 2020 Mark L. Louden

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ISSN: 2689‐7458