Yiddish is spoken as a daily language in some parts of America, mostly in New York City, and in some parts of Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, and South America, as well as in Israel. It is slightly higher than standard German, with a large admixture of words of Hebrew, Slavic, or other origin. As Yiddish is roughly 75% Germanic in origin, German speakers can understand a large part of it.
Yiddish is written with the same alphabet as Hebrew, with a few additional letters, and is written from right to left.
Yiddish pronounciation is different from German or Israeli Hebrew. Words of European origin are spelled out, similar to most European languages, and can be said as they are spelled. On the other hand, words of Semitic (Hebrew and Aramaic) origin are written just as in the original Hebrew or Aramaic, without vowels. In many cases you must learn how to pronounce these words in Yiddish; you cannot necessarily work it out from their spelling, and they are mostly pronounced differently from Israeli Hebrew.
Take note that most native speakers do not use most of the diacritical marks. For example, both "אַ" and "אָ" are usually written as "א". While "ײַ" is almost always written as "ײ". In the latter case, this makes sense, as words represented here as "ey" or "ay" are often pronounced slightly differently from dialect to dialect.
Furthermore, "פֿ" is almost always written as "פ", because there is a dot in "פּ" to distinguish it.
The dots used to distinguish "ייִ" from "ײ" are often replaced with an "א" as in "װאו" rather than "װוּ" which is somewhat clumsy visually.
All these differences represent standardised YIVO orthography versus the more widely employed "Modern Standard", other variations exist.
- א shtumer alef
- silent; used before ו vov and י yud when they are vowels; e.g. איר (ir) you subj.
- אַ pasekh alef
- אָ komets aleph
- ב beys
- like bear
- בֿ veys
- like volume; only used in words of Hebrew or Aramaic origin
- ג giml
- like gone
- ד daled
- like dog
- ה hey
- like harp
- ו vov
- like or or tune
- וּ melupm vov
- used in place of ו vov when it appears beside װ tsvey vovn
- װ tsvey vovn
- like violin
- ױ vov yud
- like boy
- ז zayin
- like zebra
- ח khes
- like the Scottish Gaelic loch, German ach, or as in חנוכּה (khanuke); used only in words of Hebraic or Aramaic origin
- ט tes
- like tuck
- י yud
- like yet (as a consonant) or internet (as a vowel)
- יִ khirek yud
- used beside another vowel instead of י yud, to show that it is to be pronounced separately; e.g. ייִדיש (yidish) Yiddish
- ײ tsvey yudn
- like bay
- ײַ pasekh tsvey yudn
- like pie
- כּ kof
- like keep; used only in words of Hebraic or Aramaic origin
- כ ך khof
- like loch
- ל lamed
- like leave
- מ ם mem
- like mother
- נ ן nun
- like never
- ס samekh
- like some
- ע ayin
- like set
- פּ pey
- like upon
- פֿ ף fey
- like free
- צ ץ tsadek
- like boots
- ק kuf
- like coo, but further back in the throat
- ר reysh
- voiced gargle as in French, can be pronounced as root
- ש shin
- שׂ sin
- like seem; only used in words of Hebrew or Aramaic origin
- תּ tof
- like teeth; only used in words of Hebrew or Aramaic origin
- ת sof
- like smooth; only used in words of hebrew or aramaic origin
Some phrases in this phrasebook still need to be translated. If you know anything about this language, you can help by plunging forward and translating a phrase.
- שלום־עליכם (sholem-aleykhem)
- Hello (in response to a "Hello")
- עליכם־שלום (aleykhem-sholem)
- How are you?
- װאָס מאַכסטו? (Vos makhstu?) (informal) / װאָס מאַכט איר? (Vos makht ir?) (formal)
- Fine, thank you.
- גוט, אַ דאַנק (Gut, a dank) גאָט צו דאַנקן (Got tsu danken) ברוך השם (Borukh Hashem)
- What is your name?
- װי הײסטו? (Vi heystu? [informal])/ װי הײסט איר?(Vi heyst ir? [formal])
- My name is ______ .
- איך הײס (Ikh heys ______.)
- Nice to meet you.
- עס פֿרײַט מיר זיך צו קענען אײַך (Es frayt mir zikh tsu kenen aykh [formal]) עס פֿרײַט מיר זיך צו טרעפֿן דיך (Es frayt mir zikh tsu trefen dikh.)
- זײַט אַזױ גוט (Zayt azoy gut.)
- Thank you.
- אַ דאַנק (A dank.)
- You're welcome
- נישטאָ פֿאַרװאָס (nishto farvos)
- יאָ (yo)
- נײן (neyn)
- Excuse me. (getting attention)
- ענטשולדיק (Entshuldik!)
- Excuse me. (begging pardon)
- זײַט זשע מוחל (Zayt zhe moykhl! )
- I'm sorry.
- Zayt mir moykhl (formal) זײַ מיר מוחל (Zay mir moykhl [informal].)
- זײַ געזונט (Zay gezunt) אַ גרוס אין דער הײם (A grus in der heym.)
- Goodbye (informal)
- אַ גוטן (A gutn.)
- I can't speak Yiddish [well].
- (איך רעד נישט קײן אידיש (גוט (Ikh red nisht keyn Yidish (gut).)
- Do you speak English?
- רעדסטו ענגליש Redstu English? (informal)/ רעדט איר ענגליש Redt ir English? (formal)
- Is there someone here who speaks English?
- איז עס דאָ עמעץ װאָס רעדט ענגליש Iz es do emetz vos redt english?
- הילף Hilf! גװאַלד Gvald!
- Good morning.
- גוטן מאָרגן Gutn morgn.
- Good evening.
- גאָטן אָװענט Gutn ovent.
- Good night
- אַ גוטע נאַכט A gute nakht.
- I don't understand.
- איך פֿאַרשטײ נישט (ikh farshtey nisht)
- Where is the toilet?
- װוּ איז דער באָדצימער/דער װאַנעצימער Vu iz der bodtsimer?/ der vanetsimer?
½ - halbakh'hekith ( halb + hetsi )
0 - nokh'fasakth ( null + efes )
1 - enkh'faktakh ( eins + ahat )
2 - zweshah'taaymah ( zwei + shtayim )
3 - dreykhah'sholaah ( drei + shalosh )
4 - wekh'kharbah ( vier + arbah )
5 - fikh'hamash ( fünf + hamesh )
6 - sekhinn'zakhah ( sechs + shesh )
7 - sibbankh'zavankh ( sieben + sheva )
8 - asseekh'samonakh ( acht + shmoneh )
9 - neoh'takshah ( neun + tesha )
10 - zehasar ( zehn + eser )
11 - elfakth'asiran ( elf + ahatesreh )
12 - zwalfhah'shtam-asiran ( zwölf + shtamesreh )
18 - assahn'shmonkh-asiran ( achtzehn + shmonahesreh )
20 - zwashzeh'askhiram ( zwanzig + esrim )
50 - fikhzeh'hamaskam ( fünfzig + hameshim )
100 - khundmeeyah ( hundert + meah )
200 - zweshundarkh'matyah ( zweihundert + matayim )
500 - fikhundarkh'hamashmeeytkh ( fünfhundert + hameshmeot )
1000 - dawsukth ( tausend + ? )