Flag of Alsace, France
Though Alsace is a province of France, the language spoken there and passed down from generation to generation is an unwritten Germanic dialect and similar to the language spoken across the Rhine in Switzerland and Germany. The majority of Alsatian emigrants who came to Castroville during the 19th century were from Haut-Rhin (translation: upper Rhine), the southern section of the province around Mulhouse. Their dialect is somewhat different from their northern neighbors in Bas-Rhin (translation: Lower Rhine), from Colmar to the Strasbourg area.
Alsatians are amazed when they encounter Castroville Alsatians speaking the same dialect today that their ancestors brought to Texas some six and seven generations ago. The Alsatian spoken in Castroville has scarcely changed since 1844, except for borrowed English words where there is no Alsatian word.
At present the Castrovillians who converse in Alsatian are the older generation, though a few families still speak the dialect with their children. The same is true in Alsace as the number grows fewer with each generation.
In an attempt to preserve their native language, Ralph “Blackie” and Annette Tschirhart (both deceased), with the help of their daughter, Connie Tschirhart Balmos, and granddaughter, Cathy Rihn Lester, wrote an Alsatian Dictionary. First, they wrote a small handbook, and later the 90 page “Wordbuch”. It is a good reference for those trying to learn or write the language. Currently the book is out of print.
From time to time there are classes offered at the Castroville Public Library. Anyone interested in learning a little Alsatian can join in. Currentl Alsatian Club classes.