The Jewish Eye
By C. Tondowski
Distributed by Feldheim Publishers: New York
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - April 27, 2011
Whether you are just starting to learn Yiddish, or are seeking a quick refresher, the English-Yiddish Handbook, by C. Tondowski is a great place to start.
This handy, pocket-sized handbook is divided into two sections. The first section contains a list of words that you are likely to need in your day-to-day life such as hello, goodby, how much, various pronouns, common adjectives, basic verbs, along with words related to numbers, colors, time, health, the home, days of the week, and much more. This section will give you a basic, general vocabulary along with learning a few simple sentences. The second section is more advanced, covering conversational phrases that will not only increase your vocabulary but which will provide a template that you can use to construct your own sentences. Topics covered in this second section range from 'a visit to the doctor' and various sections on shopping to terms related to quantity, regularity, feelings, real estate, and much more.
The English-Yiddish Handbook is not a textbook. Rather, it is designed more to be used as a supplementary learning aid along the lines of a traditional traveler's phrase book. Due to its small size, 6" x 4" you can easily slip the book into your pocket or purse, and then pull it out whenever you have a spare minute or two to learn a new word or phrase. The actual vocabulary is organized thematically, so if you are looking to learn your numbers or terms related to nature or a job interview, you will find them all together in one chapter. Scattered throughout the book you'll also find tips and rules for using Yiddish properly.
The way the book is designed is that you have a list of Yiddish words or phrases down the right-hand side of each page, with the English translation on the left-hand side of the page, as you would find in a typical phrase book. The book does not go into great detail about the sound of the letters in Yiddish, as it appears that the authors assume that you are already familiar with the Hebrew alphabet and they did not give pronunciation guidelines since there are so many different inflections of Yiddish used around the world. A few minutes with an obliging native speaker in your community should be enough for you to get a basic understanding of how to pronounce the terms in this book properly - to adhere to the accent in your community. Then, whenever you get a chance, practice what you have learned with a Yiddish speaker. You will find that most people will be more than happy to correct your pronunciation and to give you tips on improving your sentence structure and overall language skills.
The English-Yiddish Handbook is a handy and practical tool for helping you to increase your Yiddish vocabulary. If you are interested in learning the finer points of Yiddish grammar or in learning to write Yiddish, you will find that several helpful textbooks are available. If your goal is simply to acquire a basic conversational vocabulary, you should find this book sufficient for your needs. However, once you get a taste of Yiddish, I hope that you will strive to become proficient. Yiddish is a marvelously rich language with a plethora of both religious and secular books and movies available for your edification. Yiddish is spoken the world over, even Iceland, and once you start speaking Yiddish, you'll be amazed at just how many Yiddish speakers you run into.
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- Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture, Volumes 1 and 2, by Sheva Zucker.
A complete introductory course in Modern Yiddish that is equivalent to a 3-4 semester university level sequence in Yiddish. The course consists of two textbooks, two companion sets of audio recordings that are keyed to the text, as well as answer keys for the exercises in both textbooks. This series is ideal for use in both formal classroom settings and for use by independent students.
- The Yiddish Teacher: A Method for the Study of Yiddish, by H. E. Goldin.
Goldin's classic textbook is ideal for students just embarking upon the study of Yiddish. It includes numerous translation exercises, vocabulary lists, and grammar lessons.
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