July 13, 2013 | Yiddish

I Love Yiddish

I just need a large-print version of my grammar book!

Aside from the fact that I would benefit from a larger font size for the Yiddish, I have really been enjoying the grammar exercises in Basic Yiddish: A Grammar and Workbook—especially the translation ones. Here’s a picture of tonight’s latest effort.

Basic Yiddish: A Translation Exercise

Basic Yiddish: A Translation Exercise

As I have already pointed out, the answers in the answer key are given in print form, and I am writing in cursive (as one is supposed to do, as far as I have heard). Especially since I am still just getting used to cursive, any comments on mistakes, or criticisms regarding the quality of my handwriting, would be very welcome.

Changing the English to this, which looks so different, feels like a magic trick. I love writing the question number and then the period to the left of the number and then the sentence backwards and then the period on the far left. Yes, I’ve done it before, but I am doing it much more in Yiddish than I did in Hebrew and Arabic. 

I have noticed I have a hard time keeping my lines straight when I am writing from right to left. 

I have been coming across interesting details in the past couple of days, grammatically speaking. Plurals among them. The word for “book” in Yiddish is בוך , which is transliterated as bukh and sounds like the German equivalent, Buch. But the plural is ביכער, or bikher—meaning the first vowel changes. (In German, “books” is Bücher.) I am wondering whether this particular vowel difference between the two languages is one I will see more of.

It’s not that I haven’t had to watch out for other vowel differences between German and Yiddish words that are otherwise similar—but this particular shift is the one that has surprised me the most so far.

Almost Every Time I Go Out, I Take My Pimsleur Hebrew with Me, for Review Purposes

Almost Every Time I Go Out, I Take My Pimsleur Hebrew with Me, for Review Purposes

I also learned today that there is a word nito in Yiddish that you use to say that something is not present. For instance, “There is no book” would translate as Es iz nito keyn bukh. What a word! I don’t know its etymology, but I like it because it sounds like “neato,” which I used to say a lot as a kid. (“Neato keeno” for emphasis.)

I also thoroughly enjoyed a Basic Yiddish lesson in double negatives. The author didn’t actually call them double negatives, but they look like double negatives to me! One example from the book involved the sentence “The person is not a mother.” (I know, it’s a weird one.) That is translated as: Der mentsh iz nit keyn mame. Fun to get to stick nit and keyn together like that. I believe that’s impossible with the German equivalents nicht and kein. (Der Mensch ist keine Mutter.) Therefore, stashing them together in a single sentence feels rebellious.

I enjoy double negatives sometimes, even in English, and they are a natural part of many languages, regardless of the pervasive reaction to them in English as grammatical heresy. For anyone who has desired to use a double negative but felt constrained: you might like to visit this brief but illuminating Oxford Dictionaries entry on their use in English.

A double negative can be very freeing.

Comments (2)

Yelena • Posted on Sat, July 20, 2013 - 8:35 pm EST

‘nito’‘s etymology is most likely Slavic, although it could also be ‘nishto’ where the ‘sh’ fell out. The double negatives are fun! basically you need to negate the verb (nit) as well as the noun (kein). And your handwriting is lovely!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sat, July 20, 2013 - 9:46 pm EST

Thank you, Yelena!

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