Communicating with community: Warren County’s second most common language

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry

Deutsch in der zeitung?

German in the newspaper?

Since 2014, the Warren County department of planning and zoning has had to publish some public notices in both English and German.

Community Development Block Grant Administrator Lorri Dunlap has to allow for communities in which at least 5 percent of the population “speaks English less than very well,” according to Pennsylvania State Data Center documents. She also has to provide information about that status annually to CDBG.

In the case of Warren County, in 2014, 91 Amish residents of Freehold Township — 7.6 percent of the population — were listed in that category, with ‘German’ as the second most commonly spoken language in that area.

Freehold is the only municipality in the county that hits the 5 percent threshhold. Sugar Grove Borough is next highest at 3.1 percent.

So, when a CDBG advertisement is intended for Freehold Township, it has to be published in English and German.

“If I’m doing something that’s broad and involves the whole county, I’m supposed to put that in,” Dunlap said.

There’s more. For a project in Freehold Township, Dunlap said “I am encouraged to approach the bishop in that area and post it in their church” in order to most efficiently spread the word.

If a property owner wants to apply for some allocated grant dollars — for example in a housing rehabilitation project — Dunlap would have to be prepared to offer translation services.

If an ad is for a project that has nothing to do with Freehold Township, the additional requirements do not apply.

At first, Dunlap was using a translater into ‘high German’ — hochdeutsch. Then, she went with a Pennsylvania German translation that was deemed to be more appropriate to the “German speaking” population in the county.

When Dunlap is in doubt about notices, she said she includes a note in German that those who need assistance can contact her office for a translator.

“We do the best we can,” she said.