July 5, 2013 | Yiddish

Alphabet Games

I need to learn the Yiddish/Hebrew alphabet better.

I spent quite a bit of time on the Hebrew alphabet when I was studying Hebrew a year and a half ago, but I never got all that comfortable with it. There were a couple of issues.

This Hebrew Book Would Have Taught Me Cursive, But I Didn't Get to It. Now I Am Taking Action.

This Hebrew Book Would Have Taught Me Cursive, But I Didn’t Get to It. Now I Am Taking Action.

First, I never learned cursive. I was subsequently informed that that is the only thing people in Israel use, and that there was no need to learn printing. Well, I studied printing, not cursive, and I couldn’t read the cursive.

Second, the vocabulary was unfamiliar, and the vowels weren’t written. That made learning to read more difficult. Since I might not necessarily even know the Hebrew word and its meaning in real life, how to know what I was looking at, vowelless and all, when I saw it on the page?

The situation with Yiddish is very, very different. According to Lily Kahn in Colloquial Yiddish, “The Yiddish alphabet is almost completely phonetic: each letter has only one sound, and each sound has only one letter (or specific combination of letters). The only exception to this is words deriving from the loshn-koydesh component of the language, which are written in the same way as in Hebrew and Aramaic…”

From 'Colloquial Yiddish': I Can Sound This Stuff Out, But It Takes Me Forever

From ‘Colloquial Yiddish’: I Can Sound This Stuff Out, But It Takes Me Forever

Because so many Yiddish words are Germanic, and because there are a lot more vowels floating around than there were with Hebrew, my alphabet-learning life is now massively easier. I can read the first few letters of a Yiddish word (say, מענ, or m-e-n) and guess what word is coming (מענטש, or mentsh, meaning “person”). I can then read the Hebrew script through to the end to reinforce my grasp of the letters.

Therefore, I am growing comfortable with Yiddish writing at a much faster rate than I did Hebrew. However, I want to do better. I find it hard to learn alphabets well with books, and I have realized that games and quizzes are often more efficient, not to mention fun, ways to learn this kind of thing.

So I searched the web for Yiddish alphabet games. There appear to be more for Hebrew than for Yiddish. I did like Quizlet’s tools reasonably well. 

Try Quizlet's Yiddish Alphabet Test!

Try Quizlet’s Yiddish Alphabet Test!

A Timed Game to Reinforce the Yiddish Letters

A Timed Game to Reinforce the Yiddish Letters

I believe the content on that site is actually user-contributed, and I think I noticed mistakes in the Hebrew and Yiddish alphabet material. I still learned a lot; just be careful.

It occurs to me that online games for other unfamiliar alphabets might be helpful to many adults. I will look into this more for other languages once I finish this Yiddish unit.

Comments (5)

Alex • Posted on Mon, July 08, 2013 - 1:27 am EST

Random thought of the day: Ever wonder if they have alphabet soup in places where they don’t use our alphabet?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sat, August 31, 2013 - 2:18 pm EST

Ha ha. I couldn’t find Hebrew or Arabic or Russian alphabet soup, but here are some aleph bet cookie cutters:!

Jacob • Posted on Thu, October 17, 2013 - 3:06 pm EST

I’ve had trouble with the Hebrew/Yiddish alphabet too.  I wasn’t aware of Quizlet but found it helpful.  Thank you for referring everyone to it.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, October 17, 2013 - 4:54 pm EST

I’m so glad you found it helpful, Jacob!

LOLA • Posted on Wed, May 06, 2015 - 5:06 am EST

Hello, I found your article very interesting and helpful :) I’m from France and I would like to ask you a question. I am Jewish from East Europe and I would like to know how to write this family name in Yiddish: NOVASCHELSKI
Than you by advance for your answer :)

Post a Comment