Université Populaire Obernai

Alsatian dialect course

New book 2002                      

Alsatian-English common roots dictionary







" learning English through Alsatian "

by P.Adolf

Bibliographical sources
Technical data

" A totally new book.....

" Learning English through Alsatian German "
or " learning Alsatian German through English "

" Where there's a will there's a way "

"vum Elsässiche züem Ënglische"

"learning English through Alsatian German"




 A totally new book

A major new reference guide for Alsatian students of English and for Americans or other English speaking people interested in learning Alsatian German or in Alsace (France).

This comparative bilingual dictionary enables Alsatian German speakers to put their knowledge of German, French and their own dialects to good use when learning basic English, helping them to fix English words and expressions in their memory! What is more, it reveals many surprising family relationships and similarities between the two languages which readers will find fascinating to explore. Moreover English speaking communities, interested in Alsace, will also find a new way to discover Alsace and to learn Alsatian German through English!


It contains:

  • Hundreds of examples in which the two languages are identical, in whole or in parts;
  • Expressions in current use, idiomatic turns of phrases and picturesque proverbs;
  • Anglicisms in Alsatian German;
  • Notes on etymology and grammar;
  • Comparative notes and items of historical interest.

It contains a family tree of the Germanic languages.


The author

Paul Adolf, PhD, teacher of English, Vice President of the Fédération des Universités Populaires d'Alsace (France). With the assistance of Raymond Matzen, former Director of the Institut de Dialectologie alsacienne de l'Université des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg (France).


Technical data

Format 175 x 250 mm, 1136 pages, hardback book with blue and bordeaux covers, including headband.


You wish to know more about this book ?

Please contact the author :


Genetic " linguistic " relationships
(extract from book back cover)

Did you know that English has preserved old Germanic words which no longer exist in Standard German...but which you can rediscover in Alsatian German. Try to guess the Alsatian word hidden behind the English verb " to jump " and the English counterpart corresponding to the Alsatian cognate " Dürlibs " !

It is true that the Germanic dialects - of which Alsatian German and AngloSaxon - have gradually followed different routes...but many similarities have survived the great change of 1066.

So it would be a shame to confine this thrilling comparison merely to the sole French-English cognates. Paul Adolf shows how Alsatian bilinguals can take advantage of the resources of their dialect and Standard German as well to learn the basics of English . On the other hand it would also be useful for an English speaking person to use the book by learning Alsatian through English the other way round.You might also be interested in a new pronunciation method with the help of Alsatian and standard German beside French.

Any lecture inviting on the topic would be welcome by the author.

Just e-mail : paul.adolf@gmail.com


Born in Strasbourg in 1931, a former teacher of English of Alsatian descent and multilingual (Alsatian, German, French, English) - has written and passed two University theses (see bibliographical sources of his work)...., is a PH.D. specially in contrastive linguistics and since 1960 was keen on promoting multilingualism in Alsace for Alsatians by founding UPO for adults with branches in the Bas-Rhin. The author has taught English and Alsatian as well for over thirty years. Alsatian German, Standard German and French are very useful comparisons as source languages for anyone learning English or the reverse..

Alsace keeps on creating economic and cultural links with English speaking countries, so no wonder P. Adolf who travelled wide and far thought his dictionary was a " must " as well for English speaking Alsatians abroad reminding them of their roots but also for English speaking people who want to get more familiar with Alsace, its history and traditions , its way of life and precisely through its dialect compared to English, sharing many common features.

The author is ready to organize lectures on the topic and also on the general topic of language relationships (between French, standard and dialect German and English) His dictionary is a useful guide for a new approach of English based on common roots teaching strategies.


(translated extract from the dictionary's " Foreword " )

" Are you supposed to be a scholar and a linguist to refer to this comparative dictionary ? Certainly not, but an Alsatian knowing his mothertongue and adding, standard German, besides French of course and starting or improving his English, will consult this dictionary with interest and benefit..It will become a new guide in search of English and will prompt him to trace back his Alsatian roots at the same time. As long as in Europe Latin prevailed as a medium of culture and communication between literate people, there was practically no attempt at learning foreign languages , but today we all need to know as many languages as possible and to reduce linguistic differences being a real barrier to understanding at an international level.We must use " helpful tricks ", tools and mnemonics to improve our European and world communication.
France keeps on prompting Anglophones in the world , for instance in Australia,to get acquainted with French by putting first forward the advantages resulting from the similarities between French and English and making it plain that French itself has integrated a great number of Anglicisms which should also contribute to facilitate the acquisition of French.

So why not give the opportunity and means to an English learning Alsatian to take advantage of his knowledge of new standard German as well as old regional German (here the Alsatian dialects " Alemanic and Frankish ") ?

Owing to close similarities between English , a former Saxon language and our Alsatian Alemanic and Frankish dialects, a person from Alsace could easily and with discretion put to good use those similarities and differences - the ground level of modern English - to facilitate his learning of English. It is obvious that a Dane understands fairly well a Swede and that a Spaniard learns quickly Portuguese , doesn't he ?

Following a first version of the new Alsatian-English dictionary (see BNU - Strasbourg) dealing with the noun, this comprehensive book featuring the whole set of cognates intends first to arouse the wish of Alsatian speaking people to find out useful family links between European languages . Alsatian German is still vivid and more widely spoken in France than Breton or any other French " patois " .

French will help after you have mastered the basics. Conversely , an Englishman or an American will be able to learn Alsatian German through the help of his English vernacular..Let us be aware of the common features of those Germanic and Roman languages (page 14). cf. the translation into different languages of a fundamental sentence (page 14) of the Lord's Prayer .

Learning other languages through one's own vernacular means eventually knowing better our mother tongue : That's what the German writer Goethe said : " Who doesn't know foreign languages doesn't know his own mother tongue (" Maxims and reflexions ")


In search of cognates

It is not necessary to know all the English words but at the beginning we should try to know how to use properly the basic words. Afterwards it will be useful to identify and understand a much more extensive but " passive "vocabulary without forcibly being able to know how to re-use every word....
Like many languages, English uninterruptedly borrows words from others. Similarly the Alsatian dialects do so too .


False cognates

Let us beware of those superficial similarities where some people would see facilities for mnemonics, but which actually display no etymological link.
Those funny similarities can result in howlers . Alsat . " Süffolik ", pack of drunks (<süffe=to drink heavily) has nothing to do with the British county of
Suffolk (=South folk). There is neither a link between a " flash " and e " Flàsch ", a bottle nor between a " Bruck " , a bridge and engl. "brook ", a stream, the English cognate being bridge. In the past we also used the word " e Bruck " to refer to a toothbridge, nowadays we use in Alsatian German the English word " bridge ".The English word " brook " whose meaning has shifted rather shares a common origin with our " Brüech ", a swampy area.


Alsatian German dialects

We sometimes hear that German words derive from English or the opposite : in fact Germanic dialects including old English, Freeze and Low Dutch and Alsatian German (Alemanic and Frankish) among others, were prior to their present day standard languages . Our Alsatian dialects being spoken for approximately 1500 years are part of " Oberdeutsch/Upper German " - this is a geographical notion - and in some way were influenced by Frankish dialects beyond the forest of Haguenau, "l'Outre forêt " . So Alsatian German and Standard German are not the same language but two different forms of the same original language, old High German . Standard German has eliminated numerous Alsatian dialect words and has become enriched with new phrases : so als. " Imm ", bee has been replaced by " Biene ",bee and " keje ",to fall " by " fallen ", which besides also exists in Alsatian German, " gumpe ", to jump" by " springen ", "hüpfen "

Freeze, Frankish and perhaps AngloSaxon tribes may have left their marks in Alsace under the form of surnames and place names : " Friess, Friesenheim, Sachs, Frank. Englisch, Engländer ". Who knows ? Before them Scottish and Irish missionaries left the surname " Schott " in Alsace. So comparing Standard German and English would be incomplete if we didn't add Alsatian German elements.

Alsatian German provides us with the general basic vocabulary :
father, mother, sister, brother...to eat, drink, sleep (including the 2nd consonant shift ) but it also provides us with colloquial, plain English counterparts ex : " de Dadderi hàn ", to tremble, to be afraid is not far from " to be in a dither " ( " excited and confused "), "to have the dithers " (informal) ; " e Büe dresche ", is to thrash a boy (colloquial), als. "wàffle " is not far from to waffle (talk a lot)

Besides, there are still in our dialect very old Alsatian words (old German varieties) : in a butchery you can find "
Hàmm "=smoked ham being close to engl. ham ;among the " false cognates " let us mention : als. " Gift "=poison and engl. "gift "=present . "Gift " used to mean in Alsatian the same as in English and survives in Alsat. " Mitgift " , dowery -
Alsatian forms may be closer to English than standard German ones : Engl. "
seven ", als. " siewe " (low Alemanic), Germ. sieben ;Engl. " pound ", als. " Pund " (north west Alsace), beside " Pfund " (low Alemanic) ; or words : als. "Zwahl " (non existent in Standard German) and Engl. " towel "
cf. Please read "
Contrastive linguistics and English teaching strategies in Alsace "
by Paul Adolf



The dictionary " l'anglais par l'alsacien "

by Paul ADOLF
certified teacher of English
Vice Président of UP d'Alsace
Président of l'UPO

collaborator : Raymond MATZEN
former director of the " Institut de dialectologie alsacienne "
in Strasbourg


To illustrate and to put into practice the contrastive method let us refer to the new dictionary " l'anglais par l'alsacien " published by " Université populaire d'Obernai " and " le Verger Editeur. "

Many ways lead to English : in Alsace the dialect is a good and efficient link to German, so why teach a Germanic language - even the most Roman like English- to an Alsatian speaker only through the help of French without taking into account his previous knowledge of spoken old German (Alsatian), standard German and French (cf. dict., page 12 ) .
It would be a shame not to benefit from the linguistic specificities of Alsace to facilitate this interlinguistic and intercultural approach promoting eventually our multilingual vocation.
It is a
pedagogic project I had been thinking of carrying out and which has eventually materialized with the publishing of this comparative, bilingual, scientific and practical dictionary of 1136 pages featuring the majority of English words of Germanic origin having a link with our regional vernacular ("cognates"). My first comparative dictionary dealing with the " noun cognates " had already come out in 1982 following two university research work theses related to contrastive linguistics (Alsatian-English).

Jà, Elsassisch kànn uns halfe Anglisch lehre " , Yes, Alsatian German can help us learn English !
That is precisely the aim of this new dictionary intended for Alsatians from St Louis to Lauterbourg .From the outset the work is illustrated by a map showing the language links of Indoeuropean and the kinship of the Germanic dialects - including Alsatian - and English.
It is true that books on " learning English through French " already exist , " Guidelines " for Frenchspeaking learners are numerous and the Alsatians also use them of course, but there was somewhere here in diglossic Alsace a gap , i.e. we missed a specific dictionary opposing true and false Old German similarities to English, because it would be unthinkable to speak and write basic English without this Germanic core which is conspicuous in the elementary English vocabulary and grammar! Indeed the historical and phonetic survey annexed sheds a special light on those etymological links !

Structure of the dictionary

The book consists of four parts : first the Alsatian cognates facing their English counterparts are abundantly illustrated and reveal total or partial equivalence , followed then by the " false friends " sharing no common elements ; then comes a new chapter on anglicisms you find in the Alsatian dialects and finally we can find annexed historical keys and explanations as well as indexes.
Instead of confining itself to a merely tedious list of Alsatian-English cognates, this comprehensive work of a new genre abundantly illustrates all these cognates with clear and vivid examples of phrases, idioms of everydaylife accompanied with explanatory notes , partially or totally equivalent idioms and grammar patterns (in the examples) facilitating no doubt memorizing of the target language. It will also be a resource for translation techniques as regards Alsatian, German, French into English and back.

Each keyword cognate is illustrated by one or several every day sentences :
" Ich ass/ëss e-n àpfel/àppel jede Doej/Dàà/Dàg " ,
I eat an apple every day.
The Alsatian sentence helping to memorize its English counterpart is translated into French and English .The same is valid for an English speaking person who wants to learn Alsatian through English.
E Fleischwund
a wound in the flesh (works both directions)
Ich kauf Fleisch bim Metzjer
I buy meat at the butcher's.
Mini Kinder sinn min Fleisch un Blüet My children are my flesh and blood.
You can see here how far memorizing identical items can go.


Dialect variations

Since the dictionary aims at rousing interest among the Alsatian community living in the different dialect areas of Alsace , I had first to think of an adequate written form . It is not always easy to decode the " written " dialect . That is why you will find the written standard German word at each entry to help identify more quickly the main variations -unless it doesn't exist any longer - and on the other hand I had to limit myself to keeping only the main Alsatian phonetic variations :
Raymond Matzen who has acted as a proofreader of my Alsatian typescript has made here constructive suggestions.

Besides, some English phrases remind the reader rather of Alsatian dialects than Standard German ! - seven days , " siwe Daj " , St.Germ.sieben, drink , " drinke " ,Germ.trinken , plum, " Plum " (Alsace Bossue) , pound , Pund , Pfund ! We can also find old Alsatian dialect words discarded since long by Standard German, but still present in English. They will delight the researchers and inquiring minds ! (" Tsischdi ", Tuesday , " gumpe " , jump, " lüentsche ", to lounge, " Hàmme ", ham , " Zwall " , towel , " de Datteri hàn ", to have the dithers,(colloquial),etc.) . The wordbook points to the correct way of using language levels when using appropriately the English equivalents.Alsatian will also help getting familiar with English colloquialisms.


The dictionary includes :

1. Hundreds of examples in which the two languages are identical, in whole or in part :
ex: Güete Morje !
Good morning !

Es isch kàlt im Winter
It's cold in winter .

Ar drinkt e Glàss Wàsser, Win . He drinks a glass of water, wine .

Mir sinn d'Hand
gebunde . My hands are bound .

Bind dinni Kràwàtt un d'Schüebandel ! Fasten your tie and tie your
shoelaces !

2. compounds , derived words, phrasal verbs :

Pfafferminz peppermint

Winkaller/-këller wine cellar

Mir hàlte 's noch làng üs ! We'll still hold out for long !

3. Expressions in current use, idiomatic turns of phrase and picturesque proverbs :

Arm in Arm arm in arm

mit offene Arm with open arms

rund um d'Ühr round the clock

Wo/Wu e Wille isch, isch e Wag/Wëj ! (1) Where there's a will there's a
way !
(1) popular phrases and idioms :
Es isch Gotteswille It's God's will - Es isch min letschter Wille It's my last will - Ich düe 's üs freiem Wille , I do it from free will. Mit dem beschte Wille in d'r Walt - With the best will in the world.

Alles isch nitt Gold wàs glanzt ! All is not gold that glitters !

4. anglicisms in Alsatian

" Korner " (football) "Füesbàll " corner (kick)

others.... "Bulldozer, Kocktail , Lift " ,etc.


5. Notes on etymology and grammar including similar grammar patterns


6. Comparative notes and items of historical interest
(annexed) such as the history of English and Alsatian German and the origins of the similarities and differences of cognates ; surname similarities : Zimmermann , Timberman , place names : Litzelhüse (Lützelhouse) sharing " Litzel " with " Little " Tew (Oxforshire) etc.

7. notes on how to pronounce basic English words through Alsatian, some exercises, finally the Alsatian, German, English and French cognates indexes.

The new dictionary being a reference and supplementary passport for English being taught in Alsace, aims at giving Alsatians - young and adult - an optimum chance of becoming multilingual and showing them how to take advantage with discretion of their diverse linguistic and cultural roots for a better opening on Europe, its languages and cultures, in this case the English speaking world.



Université Populaire Obernai Alsatian dialect course Article | New book 2002 | Dictionary |

Paul Adolf 's bibliographical sources  | Contrastive linguistics and English teaching strategies in Alsace