How can I learn Yiddish?

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  • #1324777

    cholent guy
    Participant

    So I wanted to be more able to talk to Chassidim and get to know them, and listen to some great shiurim, and I wanted to find some good sources to learn Yiddish. For the Zionists here, I’m not opposed to learning Hebrew, and I’m trying to learn it. But while there is a plethora of material out there for Hebrew, due to the somewhat more insular nature of Chassidim, it’s harder to find methods of learning Yiddish. Note that I’m looking for Yiddish as it’s spoken today by people who actually speak it, and not the archaic 1920s version spoken by some secular Jews. Any help in this matter would be deeply appreciated.

    #1324828

    jakob
    Participant

    buy the book yidish for dummies (the yellow book company) they have every language including hebrew also

    #1324844

    👑RebYidd23
    Participant

    Yiddish as it’s spoken today is you learn all the easy words of archaic yiddish and those are the ones that survived.

    #1324898

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    There is no such thing as “Modern Yiddish”, because languages change and old words fall into disuse and new things and ideas come into being (Like Brexit for example) Yiddish has broken into 2 parts

    The YIVO yiddish which is the “Official Yiddish” and they decide what is a yiddish word and what words to to be used for these new inventions and ideas. Almost every language (Except English operates the same way, there is no institute for English)

    Chassidic Yiddish does not hold by the YIVO and they just borrow english words, so modern Chassidic Yiddish is really Yinglish, If you listen to it enough you will understand without much difficulty

    #1324981

    Joseph
    Participant

    YIVO is completely irrelevant. No one uses their fake Yiddish. They make up words that absolutely no one uses.

    The secular people who claim to want to revive Yiddish and claim to know how to speak it number only a few hundred. And even they don’t really know Yiddish.

    The only true Yiddish speakers today are from the Orthodox Jewish/frum world except a small number of very old Russians who aren’t frum but learnt and spoke Yiddish as their first language as children in Russia. Most of them were born before the Second World War.

    Their are about 350,000 Orthodox Jewish Yiddish speakers, of which about 200,000 speak it as their first language and the rest are fluent in Yiddish as their second language.

    #1324988

    cholent guy
    Participant

    It would seem people who actually speak Yidish (or at least the ones who
    I want to speak Yiddish to, whether Litvish or Chassidish) don’t hold by YIVO. Yiddish is a living language just like English. I would also like to ask the mods to restrict the thread to practical ideas rather than the politics of Yiddish vs. Hebrew, as another thread several years ago fell into.

    #1325012

    cholent guy
    Participant

    Joseph, I’d like to propose that you are significantly underestimating the number of Yiddish speakers. According to Wikipedia, there are 400 thousand Chassidim today. Assuming almost all speak Yiddish, there are still a couple hundred thousand (if not more) Litvish who also speak Yiddish. So does anyone have any actual ways of learning Yiddish?

    #1325018

    smerel
    Participant

    Do you understand any Yiddish at all? You can listen to Shiurim in Yiddish and when you come across words you don’t understand look up their definition. If the speaker is American born his Yiddish will be easy to understand.

    #1325060

    iacisrmma
    Participant

    Sit with people who speak both yiddish and english. My son knew very little yiddish and went to a yeshiva in EY that was only yiddish. Within 6 months he was speaking yiddish well (although not totally fluent).

    #1324991

    Mammele
    Participant

    Go to https://www.koltorahonline.com (mods, please allow) and to start, search for “kinder”. It’ll generally cost you a buck per story download. This will only work if you understand some Yiddish already. And it helps if someone can translate for you when you feel lost. Don’t expect “pure” Yiddish, and take it all with a grain of salt.

    As your knowledge increases, you can listen to more “advanced” stuff. Don’t forget to make use of rewind as needed.

    Good luck and enjoy!

    #1325397

    PosterGirl
    Participant

    ‘The easy shmeezy guide to learning Yiddish’ by Moshe Sherizen is a great book for beginners.

    #1325401

    jakob
    Participant

    perhaps another option is to learn german. yiddish is not far off from the german language & if you know the german language well then you can get around speaking it for yidish quite well

    #1325394

    Avi K
    Participant

    Why learn pidgin German when you can learn the real thing? If you want a dialect, learn Swiss-German as it is important in finance.

    #1325396

    PosterGirl
    Participant

    Cholent is a Yiddish word, so I guess you have one word already 🙂 !
    While I agree that many of the Yiddish speakers today mix it with English words, it seems to be the nature of languages. They evolve with time and with a new geographical location there are bound to be changes.
    Interesting to note, Yerushalmi Yiddish, which one would assume should be a more pure form of Yiddish, includes some English and Arabic words!
    Chalaka is Arabic as is Jabbeh (frog).
    Some examples of the British influence:
    An umbrella is called a “parsol” (Parasol) and a porch is called a “balkon” (balcony).

    #1325423

    akuperma
    Participant

    If one wishes to learn Yiddish as is spoken today, there are some text books that are less than useful since they reflect Yiddish as it was spoken and written before World War II (among post-war changes are the disappearance of secular users, and the increased influences of Hebrew and English along with the reduced influence of German on Yiddish vocabulary and grammar). I suggest combining a textbook, along with children’s books aimed at the frum community (meaning one’s that actual Yiddish speakers buy for their kids).

    #1325427

    iacisrmma
    Participant

    poster girl: cholent is not actually a yiddish word. It is a combination of two french words “chaud” (hot) and “lente” (slow).

    #1325435

    akuperma
    Participant

    Re: cholent

    Yiddish has no words of its own, many words come from Hebrew with a spice of Aramaic, many come from German, some come from French, some come from slavic languages, many come from English.

    English also has no words of its own. Many come from German (old Anglo-Saxon), and many come from French (Norman French in paricular). Others come from a variety of languages, including Hebrew and Yiddish.

    If “cholent” isn’t a Yiddish word, what is?

    #1325441

    ubiquitin
    Participant

    iacrisma
    Even if that is true (many have their doubts) cholent is still a yiddish word. It might derive from 2 French words, but the word “cholent” isnt French. check any French dictionary I assure you the word cholent isnt there.

    Cholent guy
    Yiddish for dummies doent make a whole lot of sense in my opinion. IT uses latin characters which of course Yiddish doesnt. The best way is Using Yiddish children’s books keep a dictionary handy if you get stuck.

    #1325479

    akuperma
    Participant

    “Yiddish for dummies” is also based on Yiddish as it was a century ago, when most Americans who spoke Yiddish were secular (or at least “otd” as we now say). A major change is the American English and Israeli (zionist) Hebrew have replaced German and the Slavic languages as major influences on vocabulary and grammer. Also, modern 21st century Yiddish is a lot “cleaner” (reflecting the usage among hareidim).

    #1325590

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    There was a debate about changing Yiddish from Hebrew Letters to latin Letters. Its likely the holocaust and the general disuse of Yiddish among non-religious jews ended that debate

    #1325592

    akuperma
    Participant

    zahavasdad: Several languages changed alphabets in the 20th century, largely as a way to prevent the population from being able to read traditional literature and limit them to reading the new script used in the books the government wanted them to read. The support for changing from the Hebrew script to Roman script was considered by secular Jews as a way of encouraging Jews to get away from Torah. Russia switched several languages in their territories from Arabic script in order to distance the populations from Islam (Turkey did likewise). For Yiddish and Hebrew, opposition from frum Jews was a major factor, To make such a change work, the government has to be able to use extreme methods to prevent people from using the form script (e.g. gulags, executions, etc.).

    #1325612

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Like it or not, The Latin Alphabet is more usefel than the Hebrew Alphabet, ive been all over Europe and even thought I cant speak any of the languages , I was able to easily get around because of the latin alphabet. Its not hard to ride the Paris Metro if you can read the latin Alphabet , even if you dont speak a word of French

    #1325648

    Avi K
    Participant

    ZD, Latin letters have different pronunciations in different languages. You were able to get around the Paris Metro because French and English vocabulary are very similar although sometimes you have to think a bit (for example, “hide” is “cacher” as in “cache”). Have you ever tried making out a Polish or Hungarian word?

    #1325722

    ubiquitin
    Participant

    Avi
    Have you ever tried making out a Polish or Hungarian word?
    Yes it is easy. if you ride the Tram in Cracow and you want to get off at “kazimierz” the correct pronounciation is irrelevant We can all recognize the where that station is. However if in Pakistan and you are looking for “بے ترتیب -” you will have a much harder time .
    Likewise for somebody who doesnt recognize Hebrew letters and is looking for “רחוב יפו”

    #1325725

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    I cannot pronouce Polish at all, but at least I can read the signs, which is all I have to be able to do

    Ive been to Budapest and had no trouble riding the Metro there either or reading the street signs

    #1325988

    Avi K
    Participant

    Ubitquin, you can read a place name but what about instructions? Would you know that “wyjście” means “exit” (in French it is “sortie”, which requires a bit of thought but can be connected to English)? FYI, in Israel street signs are written in both Hebrew and English. In some places they are also written in Arabic.

    #1325989

    Avi K
    Participant

    In Hungarian “exit” is “kijárat”.

    #1326110

    ubiquitin
    Participant

    “but what about instructions?”

    Nope

    ” Would you know that “wyjście” means “exit””

    I woudlnt, but as I get off the train, I just followed the crowds. And the next time I might recognize that “wyjście” means exit regardless how it is pronounced. However if in India and I encounter crowds exiting at a sign that says “ਬੰਦ ਕਰੋ” I do not think I would recognize that sign later on.

    ” (in French it is “sortie”, which requires a bit of thought but can be connected to English)?”

    Id love to hear that thought. And I would really love to meet the guy who can figure out French on the fly, but cant figure out that the crowds getting off the train are probably exiting.

    “FYI, in Israel street signs are written in both Hebrew and English”
    Yes! exactly ZD’s point. Because if a person doesnt recognize Hebrew letters he’d be hopelessly lost .

    “In Hungarian “exit” is “kijárat”.”
    Very good!
    and in Amharic it is “መውጫ”

    do you really not see the difference?

    #1326158

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    The Main Train station in Budapest is called Kelati, If I riding the Metro (In Europe the Subways are called Metros) I need to look out the Subway car at the station and look for Kelati. I have no idea how to pronouce Kelati, but I know thats the stop so i can get off

    #1326182

    PosterGirl
    Participant

    The reason someone would learn the alef beis has very little to do with visiting Israel and more to do with learning Torah.

    We gets lotsa tourist ’round here in the holy land. Christians, Chinese, various African tribes in full regalia…….. I betcha most of them can read Hebrew at all.

    The alef beis have inherent kedusha, not to mention the obvious but lashon kodesh is the language of the Torah.

    Yeah, it won’t help you in getting around Europe. Can’t argue with the facts ……….

    #1326233

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Not just Europe, but in most countries of the world they use their own language , whatever that is and the Latin Alphabet as well. meaning if you go to Tokyo Japan, the signs will be in Japanese and Latin Equivalent

    #1326545

    Avi K
    Participant

    Ubitquin, suppose they were going to some Catholic event? I personally do not know why any Jew would want to go to Europe unless he had to. As for japan, you then get into the safek about when is Shabbat – and maybe even Yom Kippur.

    #1327110

    ubiquitin
    Participant

    “suppose they were going to some Catholic event?”

    Ok. I’m supposing it. Ok so what?

    “I personally do not know why any Jew would want to go to Europe unless he had to”
    Mazel Tov. though this isnt about you

    “As for japan, you then get into the safek…”
    Some scientists are now saying that not every day is Shabbat.

    At any rate

    I asked you a question:
    You had said “In Hungarian “exit” is “kijárat”.”
    I replied and in Amharic it is “መውጫ”

    My question is: do you really not see the difference?
    Thanks

    #1327279

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    BTW It plenty of Jews go to Europe. From the quesitons on DansDeals Id say Italy is the preferred choice. Alot also want to go to Amsterdam (I think this is more of a stopever site and people leave the airport) and Prague

    #1327319

    cholent guy
    Participant

    Chassidim live in Antwerp, and they seem to do pretty well. I think the entire debate on alphabets is way OT. I got R’ Sherizen’s book. We’ll see how it goes.

    #1327371

    Lubavitcher
    Participant

    If you want to learn the real Yiddish then ask a chabad chossid . And as a chabad chossid I speak fluent Yiddish as a first language and we have the real Yiddish the real deal unlike the other chassidim

    #1327425

    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    @770chabad
    There is no such thing as ‘real Yiddish’
    It is a language that picked up words as the people left Germany (ashkenaz) and moved east through Poland, The Baltic Sates and Russia. It picked up more word as the post 1871 waves of immigrants reached America.
    Your Chasidische Yiddish is no more real than my Litvak Misnagid Yiddish.

    As my Oma (my maternal grandmother) on the German side used to say. “Yiddish is a gutter language, spoken by the peasants from the east” I don’t agree with the word peasant, as plenty of upper income and intellectuals spoke Yiddish in Vilna and elsewhere, But it really is a corrupted dialect of middle German, just as Ladino (used by the S’fardim) is a dialect of 1400s Spanish.

    Unlike French, which has an official language institute which must approve new words, Yiddish is ever changing and evolving.

    I can remember my Litvak Great Grandfather cringing when listening to someone who substituted ‘P’ for ‘B’…I remember him asking one man: Tell me are you Jewish or a Galitzianer?

    My Yiddish was learned in morning public high school which I attended before Yeshiva from 1-9 PM. It was one of 12 foreign languages offered at the time. The teacher, also taught Hebrew, and World History. He was born in Yerushalayim in the the 1930s, Chasid, came to America when the Yishuv ended, married a Modern Orthodox woman and taught public school for 30 years to afford to send his kids to yeshiva. He didn’t thibk that the Yiddish spoken by the Chabad Rabbis at the local Day School was the ‘real Yiddish’ it was Americanized Yiddish, his was Israeli Yiddish..3 generation removed from Poland,

    #1327427

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Unlike French, which has an official language institute which must approve new words, Yiddish is ever changing and evolving.

    As stated before the YIVO is the official Yiddish Language institute. Chassidim however do not follow what the YIVO declares to be a yiddish word and French speakers may borrow an english word even against the French language insititude’s ruling

    #1327450

    Joseph
    Participant

    YIVO is not official anything. No one uses them now for Yiddish and no one used them for language prewar either.

    #1327469

    Avi K
    Participant

    Ubitquin, no. I would not the meaning of either word if I had not been told.

    CTl, apparently Ladino is closer to Spanish than Yiddish is to German. My grandmother on my mother’s side a”h was from Turkey and spoke Ladino, which she called Spanish (apparently because a variant name is Spaniolit). She could converse with people from Latin America but when the Japanese Interior Minister interviewed a rosh yeshiva during WW2 he needed an interpreter despite being fluent in German (however, I have a friend whose wife is from Switzerland and she says that Yiddish is similar enough to Swiss-German for her to understand if the person speaks slowly).
    BTW, just as there are differences between the British and American English there are differences between French and Canadian French and the Spanish of Spain and Latin America.

    #1327471

    Avi K
    Participant

    I don’t remember the title as I read it many years ago but Agnon has a story about a Jew who went to Germany for medical treatment. Every time he spoke in Yiddish he was corrected but he would not budge. Finally they showed him a dictionary and he said “Just because some gentile writes something does not mean that I have to believe it”.

    #1327486

    Lubavitcher
    Participant

    We also don’t use any English words in our Yiddish unlike other chassiddim who only speak in Yinglish

    #1327483

    ubiquitin
    Participant

    “Ubitquin, no. I would not the meaning of either word if I had not been told.”

    ah, but that wasnt my question

    Here is my question again:
    You had said “In Hungarian “exit” is “kijárat”.”
    I replied and in Amharic it is “መውጫ”

    My question is: do you really not see the difference?
    Thanks

    More to the point though you said “I would not the meaning of either word if I had not been told”
    But you were told that both “kijárat” and “መውጫ” mean exit . would you say those two words are now on equal footing equal or is there some difference between the two?

    Or another example if you were taking a train in Poland and wanted to get off at “Kraków” would it be the same as taking a train in India and getting off at “ਮੁੰਬਈ” ?

    #1327485

    CTLAWYER
    Participant

    AviK,,,,,,,,,,
    Ladino added far fewer words to the vocabulary over the centuries than Yiddish. Most families who speak Ladino went to one country when exiled from Spain and remained there. They had little interaction with travelling Jews from other Sephardic lands who used the language as common communication.
    The Jews of Ashkenaz moved in stages, east to Poland, then the Russian Empire. In the 1870s they started a westward migration to France, Belgium, England USA, Canada and South America (Australia and South Africa came later). Settling in poor immigrant areas such as the lower East Side (NYC) or the East End (London) Yiddish was a common language for native speakers of Polish, Russian, Estonian,Czech, etc. It had a large publishing presence for books, magazines and newspapers as well as Radio. This never happened with Ladino, so it stayed ‘more pure.’

    #1327520

    Joseph
    Participant

    Yiddish was the “first language” for a majority of Jews for well over 500 years.

    #1327512

    akuperma
    Participant

    YIVO was never “official”. It was a “wannabee” that few Yiddish speakers took seriously (perhaps due the fact they tried to create a standard dialect of Yiddish based on vowels from one dialect, consonants from another, and grammer from a third). YIVO’s version of Yiddish is useful in some universities, solely for the purpose of teaching people who have no desire to communicate with native speakers. Indeed, YIVO Yiddish is similar to Esperanto. How useful a language academy is can be debated (note the difficulty of the Hebrew and French academies in getting people to refrain from adopting English terms).

    Living languages constantly evolve. Note how English has lost its 2nd person singular (thou), its subjunctive (“I be”, “if I were”) not to mention its neuter gender. Living languages absorb words from other languages. Due to extreme traumas (e.g. the holocaust, and the mass migrations of the last 150 years), Yiddish has changed radically. Also note that many native speakers of English have trouble with literature produced a few centuries ago (to most Americans, Jane Austen and the Declaration of Independence seem quaint, and Shakespeare is almost incomprehensible). There is no such think as a “pure” language, and the only unchanging languages are dead ones.

    #1327525

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Ladino lost its spanish connection when the jews were exilled from Spain in 1492 and then became similar to other languages depending on where they jews lived, So in Greece, Ladino became closer to Greek .

    #1327731

    Avi K
    Participant

    CTl, you are correct. In fact, Rav Ovadia used that argument to assert that the Sephardic pronunciation is more correct than the Ashkenazic.

    #1328794

    Avi K
    Participant

    ZD, actually there were two communities in Greece and the surrounding area. The pre-Expulsion Judeo-Greek-speaking Romaniote community and the Ladino-speaking Sephardic community.

    #1330682

    LerntminTayrah
    Participant

    Like any language, you need to both listen to it and read it to learn. As was mentioned above, there are many dialects of Yiddish, from the fake yivo yiddish (shik mir a blitz breev” instead of “shik mir a email” to modern yiddish. You need to start from the bottom up. Once you got the basics you can worry about nuance. So by all means, first learn proper yiddish, then you can tzu leyg (add on) modern yiddish.
    Sheva Zucker has 2 books on college yiddish. Eichler’s sometimes has a book called der yiddish lehrer, a good beginner’s book. Lily Kahn has a book called Colloquial yiddish.
    Then, you need to listen to spoken yiddish. Even if you get nothing, it’s helpful. It trains your brain in Yiddish phenomes, the same way you learned as a baby. So listen to Rabbi Avraham Karp’s daf yomi, or shiurim from kol halshon or torah anytime in yiddish.
    Once you got some basics, a great way to expand your vocabulary, if not so yeshivish, is the back2 basics sichas, which are translated sichas of the Lubavitcher Rebbe with hard words and loose translation every other page. Google it and you can find a page with 10 free ones. Otherwise they sell books. Not for everyone of course but great tool.

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