The Jewish Eye
The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish
The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish
By R' Moshe Sherizen
Menucha Publishers, Brooklyn, NY: 2013
Reviewed by Anna Dogole - June 17, 2013
So you want to learn a little Yiddish... You are in luck, all you need to begin your learning adventure is The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish, by R' Moshe Sherizen. This handy little guide will teach you more than 1,500 of the most common Yiddish words and expressions currently in use - plus a few songs thrown in for added measure.
The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish is designed like a traditional phrase book. Words and phrases are organized into thematic sections, such as My First Verbs, What Time is it?, Animals, At the Shoe Store, Yeshiva Talk, and so forth. Within each section, each word is presented in Yiddish, in transliteration, and in English. If you are not familiar with Yiddish you may be surprised to discover that Yiddish is written using the Hebrew alphabet with the addition of some unique Yiddish vowels. The transliterated section takes the Yiddish words and presents it phonetically using the English alphabet. [The only exception is the Yeshiva Talk section for which transliteration of the Yiddish was not included.] The transliterated text in this book follows the YIVO standardized transliteration guidelines. If you know English, this will enable you to speak Yiddish words found in this book - although your pronunciation will likely not be perfect using just the transliterated text. For that you will need to practice speaking with a native Yiddish speaker, or using the many audio resources that are available online or which can be purchased at many Jewish bookstores. The English translation will help you to learn the meaning of the Yiddish word(s) you are studying.
This guide is not meant to be a complete self-study course. Rather it is designed to give you a taste of Yiddish and to encourage you to perfect your Yiddish skills by speaking with 'real' Yiddish speakers - either someone you know, or whom you happen to meet on the street, or whom you meet through a class or other social context. I look upon this guide as a starter - it will not take you to the finish line, but it will get you moving toward your goal of learning Yiddish. And, to once again help you on your way, there is a companion website for this book located at: www.yiddishacademy.com. This website provides access to some addition study materials, a Yiddish course, and more.
The only drawback to this otherwise fun and easy-to-use-guide is that a pronunciation guide was not included. This is not really necessary (although it would be helpful) if you just want to learn to speak Yiddish, and plan on relying on transliterated text for any reading. However, if you want to truly immerse yourself in the study of Yiddish you'll need to learn not only how to speak Yiddish, but also how to read it. A pronunciation guide would be most helpful in aiding students as they begin to learn the Yiddish alphabet. However, R'Sherizen has rectified this omission on his website, where you can find a lesson on Yiddish Reading Basics that includes a pronunciation guide for Yiddish, along with MP3 files so you can hear the correct pronunciation of each letter!
The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish is a handy guide that will help you on your way to learning Yiddish, and like any language guide, it is a handy book to slip into your pocket when venturing into areas where Yiddish is widely spoken. Zay matsliakh! (Good luck!)
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- 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.
- 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.
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