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July 10, 2013 | Yiddish

Translating Into Yiddish!

In which I convert some English sentences into Yiddish.

Buckling down on learning the alphabet has made my Yiddish studies so much more enjoyable! I’m excited.

I still have to look up the handwritten versions of certain letters, though. I took pictures, included below, of two sets that confuse me. The ones on the left all have a loopy element. The ones on the right all have an e-like element.

A Set of Yiddish Letters That Currently Confuse Me

A Set of Yiddish Letters That Currently Confuse Me

Another Set of Confusing Letters

Another Set of Confusing Letters

Looking at my work, I don’t have to speak Yiddish to tell that my Yiddish handwriting could use some improvement. I will work on it.

I loved my first real English-to-Yiddish translation exercise, completed tonight in Rebecca Margolis’s Basic Yiddish: A Grammar and Workbook. In Exercise 2.5, I was asked to translate the following five sentences into English:

  1. The big person is reading.
  2. They are becoming happy.
  3. The small mother eats.
  4. We read.
  5. A nice book is read. One is reading a nice book.

My Answers to Questions 1-4, Exercise 2.5, Basic Yiddish

My Answers to Questions 1-4, Exercise 2.5, Basic Yiddish

Answer #5, Which I Had to Move Over Belatedly to Accommodate Unanticipated Grammar

Answer #5, Which I Had to Move Over Belatedly to Accommodate Unanticipated Grammar

I looked at the answer key. 

I think I did well.

But as I mentioned yesterday, it is hard for me to convert quickly in my head from print to handwriting and handwriting to print. The answers are in print form, and I wrote (I hope!) entirely in cursive. So at first review I think I got these right, but I am also open to the much less exciting possibility that I got a number of things wrong. 

I love using Yiddish to learn this alphabet, though. It is so much easier than learning it with Hebrew.

And I have to say, I feel closer to Hebrew now. It does not seem quite as elusive as it did 1.5 years ago!

A note on the content in this exercise: I have observed that some people are at times turned off by odd examples in grammar books. One does not normally hear or talk, for example, about big reading people or small eating mothers.

For me, however, the eccentricity of some of the examples is one of the odd charms of reading a grammar book. It’s a kind of word play, really—mixing and matching the often limited number of elements one knows into new and sometimes bizarre combinations.

This stuff is the calisthenics of language-learning!

Comments (2)

Nick Block, PhD • Posted on Wed, July 02, 2014 - 3:46 pm EST

I just wanted to say good job! There should be more people out there learning Yiddish! The recently published Beinfeld-Bochner Yiddish dictionary is the best out there (for Yiddish to English translation, not the other way). Kol tuv un hotsloche!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, July 02, 2014 - 4:09 pm EST

Thank you so much, Nick! I wish I had gotten further with Yiddish, but maybe I will return to it in the future, and in any case, what I did get through was extremely rewarding and enjoyable. That dictionary seems marvelous, although it’s kind of intimidating for a neophyte like me. I included it in my reviews section, by the way! http://ellenjovin.com/review/comprehensive-yiddish-english-dictionary

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