Language and Communications

Relating Together

Newsletters, brochures, websites: If your organization relies on newsletters, brochures, websites and other forms of print communication, it is important to be aware that the Low German population often does not have the necessary literacy skills to understand and interpret the content and/or access to online resources.  It is best to consider forms of face to face communication as you will be more successful in ensuring your message is understood.

Translation: Consider arranging for a translator to be present when meeting with families whose English skills may be limited. Relying on children/community members for interpretation may be inadequate as these individuals may not have the necessary vocabulary for your area of expertise and the nature of the conversation may be considered inappropriate for children and other community members to hear.


Confidentiality: It is important to explain confidentiality to Low German Mennonites because as an oral, communal culture, they have different understandings of privacy and individuality which may result in their sharing information amongst themselves that breaches our confidentiality standards. Further, they really value when service providers promise to keep their personal information private but to say that you are “bound by confidentiality” is often not understood, which is why it is important to explain what exactly this means in any given context.

Low German phrases: Try to learn Low German phrases such as “Good morning”, “Good bye” and “How are you?” as this demonstrates your desire to engage with them and to learn alongside them.

Low German educational phrases
Low German words for anatomy
Low German words for conditions and diseases
Low German midwifery words and phrases

Telephone voice mail: If your organization uses voice mail, consider helping clients learn how to use it by doing practice calls in your office or during home visits. They may initially be hesitant to call agencies or leave messages as they fear they will not understand the phone message or because they feel insecure about their language skills. Many Low Germans have call display and will attempt to return calls.

Profanity: Using profanities and phrases that use God’s name in vain, such as “Oh my god” is quite offensive to Low German Mennonites.

Taking an oath: When Mennonite people are expected to “swear” or “take an oath” for legal purposes, it is best to offer that they can “affirm” rather than swear or take oaths because these actions are understood as rejection of their religious values and are therefore wrong to do.

“Children” not “kids”: Refer to children as “children” and try to avoid the word “kids” as this may be offensive to parents.

Computers, internet and electronics: Some families who have lived in Ontario for an extended period of time may have computers, internet and television while other families make a conscious choice not to have radios, television, videos and other electronic equipment in their homes.


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