Monday, December 19, 2016

The Very Basic Guide to Yiddish

Yiddish isn’t a dead language. In fact there are about 0.5-1.0 speakers. The book “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman encouraged me to write this very basic guide to Yiddish. Yiddish has been the lingua franca of the Ashkenazim (ashkenazic Jews) in middle and Eastern Europe. Like modern German Yiddish has its roots in medieval German. But it has an own grammar and lots of word come from Hebrew and other languages. Yiddish is considered a language of its own, being part of the continental West Germanic branch of Germanic languages like Afrikaans, Dutch, German, Letzebuergisch (Luxemburgish language). Some loan words from Yiddish are still in use in nowadays German. Yiddish has several dialects, with which we won’t concern ourselves in the very basic guide.

Thank you – a dank (pronounced donk) [German: Danke]
Thank you very much – a sheynem dank [German: Schönen Dank]
You’re welcome – nishto farvos
Yes – yo [German: Ja]
No – neyn [German: Nein]
Do you speak English? – redt ir English? (formal) redstu English? (informal) [German: would prefer sprechen to reden, but still correct is: Reden Sie Englisch? Redest Du Englisch?]
Please – zayt asoy gut [German: Bitte, but „Seien Sie so gut“ would still be possible]
Excuse me – entshuldik (for getting attention) [German: Entschuldigung?!]
Sorry – zay moykh
You’re welcome – nishto farvos
Good morning – gutn morgn [German: Guten Morgen]
Good evening – gutn ovend [German: Guten Abend]
Good night – a gute nakht [German: Gute Nacht]
Hello – sholem aleykhem
Hello (answer) – aleykhem sholem
See you later – biz shpeter [German: Bis später]
Goodbye – zay gezunt
Good luck! – zol zayn mit mazel!
How are you? – vi geyt es? [German: Wie geht’s?]
I’m fine! Thanks! – es geyt gut, a dank! [German: Mir geht’s gut. Danke!]
I would like to buy ... – ikh volt vi tsu koyfn ...
How much is it? – vi tayer iz dos? [German: Wie teuer ist das? But preferably: Wieviel kostet das?]
I like – mir gefelt [German: mir gefällt]
Please write it down – shrayb es on, ikh bet dikh
I don’t know – ikh vis nit [German: ich weiß nicht]
I don’t understand this – ikh farstey dos nit [German: ich verstehe das nicht]
Where is – vu iz [German: wo ist]
Where is the bathroom? – vu iz dos bodtsimer? [German: Wo ist das Badezimmer?]
I'm lost – ikh bin farloyrn
What is your name? – vi heystu? [German: Wie heisst Du?]
My name is LMK – ikh heys LMK [German: ich heisse LMK]
Mr, Mrs, Ms – her, froy, fraylin [German: Herr, Frau, Fräulein, but Fräulein hardly in use anymore]
Left – links [German: links]
Right – rekhts [German: rechts]
I need a doctor – ikh darf a doktor

Please blame any mistakes on me.

Links for Yiddish:

Links for more Basic Guides:
The Very Basic Guide to Turkmenian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz

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