The Jewish Eye
Yiddish II: An Intermediate and Advanced Textbook
Yiddish II: An Intermediate and Advanced Textbook, 4th Edition
(Yidish tsvey: A lernbukh far mitndike un vaythalters)
By Mordkhe Schaechter
Yiddish Language Resource Center
League for Yiddish: New York (2003)
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - April 15, 2010
You already know a fair amount of Yiddish, or you've completed a one year, introductory or beginners course in Yiddish, now what? An excellent textbook with which to continue your Yiddish studies is Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter's Yiddish II: An Intermediate and Advanced Textbook. This book is designed for students who have completed at least one year (2 semesters) of college-level Yiddish study. Depending upon which textbooks where used previously, Yiddish II is well suited for use in either a third or fourth semester level Yiddish class, and it can be complete in one semester. The author, Dr. Schaechter (1927-2007) was a renowned Yiddish linguist and educator. He was the Senior Lecturer in Yiddish Studies at Columbia University and the third editor of the Yiddish language magazine, Afn Shvel. He was also a prolific writer, whose many books include Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Early Childhood: An English-Yiddish Dictionary, Plant Names in Yiddish: A Handbook of Botanical Terminology, Guide to the Standardized Yiddish Orthography, and many more. He brought his years of teaching experience, abundant love for Yiddish, and his passion for authentic Yiddish to the writing of Yiddish II, a textbook that went through years of 'on the job' testing at various universities. The end result is an excellent textbook that is both fun to use, and which will greatly improve your understanding and appreciation of both written and spoken Yiddish.
This textbook adheres to the rules of standard Yiddish while also highlighting the various differences that exist between secular and religious Yiddish, as well as other cultural and geographical differences in the Yiddish that is spoken around the world. The text also acknowledges the various foreign (loan) words that have crept into Yiddish. As a result, students come away from their study of this book with a command of practical, authentic Yiddish - rather than simply learning the stolid academically and grammatical rigid Yiddish that is often taught at the University level.
What does this mean for the student? Firstly, I think that you'll find that this textbook gives you a greater freedom to experience the full vibrancy and vitality of Yiddish, and you'll also find this text a real pleasure to learn from. As well, while Dr. Schaechter does not follow a 'these are the rules and thou shall not deviate from them' methodology, his textbook is academically rigorous enough that you will find yourself well prepared to pursue further advance studies in Yiddish, at the University level, after completing this text.
Throughout, in regard to spelling, standardized Yiddish orthography is used. However, in the realm of speech, Dr. Schaechter tends to use more casual speech patterns than you might be use to - thereby preparing you to more comfortably converse with native Yiddish speakers - not just fellow students and teachers. As such, this textbook will give you a firm grounding in not only reading and understanding Yiddish, but also in speaking Yiddish.
Yiddish II is a predominantly Yiddish-only textbook. All instructions are presented in Yiddish. While English translations are provided with the vocabulary lists, you will find English translations and notes to be scarce throughout the rest of the book. As well, you will occasionally encounter Yiddish in transliteration, but only when absolutely necessary for the sake of clarity. Because students will be coming to this textbook from a wide variety of introductory and elementary Yiddish textbooks, Dr. Schaechter wisely chose to begin this intermediate textbook with four transitional chapters that will enable students to easily make the shift from their previous textbook to this one, despite any methodology or pedagogic differences between the text. As well, these chapters will help you transition from concentrating primarily on written Yiddish into a course more geared to spoken Yiddish. In all, there are twenty-four units in this textbook, and they will well prepare you to not only use Yiddish in your daily life, but also to continue with your Yiddish studies, either on your own or in an academic setting.
Yiddish II was written as a classroom textbook. However, highly motivated independent learners can profit from this text although due to the heavy emphasis on verbal skills, you will want to make the effort to find opportunities in which to practice your speaking and listening skills. Both those studying this textbook on their own, as well as those using it in a classroom setting, will find that while there is a heavy emphasis on verbal skills in this textbook, this textbook also provides ample practice in reading and writing Yiddish, as well as providing additional instruction in Yiddish grammar. As such, you will find that this book includes an ample assortment of grammar drills, written exercises, reading segments, and vocabulary lists. The end result is that you'll find yourself well prepared to read original Yiddish texts on your own, compose in Yiddish, and to carry on intelligent conversations with native Yiddish speakers.
This textbook moves progressively, with each lesson building upon those that came before, and naturally building your Yiddish skills as you progress through the book. As well, Dr. Schaechter has enlivened the textbook with the inclusions of Yiddish songs (complete with musical scores), lively reading sections, witty sayings, and illustrations that all help to bring the vitality of Yiddish to life. For both those working through this textbook on their own, and in a classroom setting, two valuable study aids are available that accompany this textbook. One is an answer key for the written exercises in the book, and the other is a collection of supplemental exercises, along with answers, that are keyed to the textbook. Both the answer key and the supplemental exercise publications are available from the League for Yiddish, as is the Yiddish II textbook.
To conclude, I highly recommend Yiddish II to anyone seeking an engaging and instructive intermediate/advance college level Yiddish textbook!
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- The Golden Peacock: The Voice of the Yiddish Writer, edited by Sheva Zucker.
An audio recording, on CD, which features ten different Yiddish writers reading their poetry and prose. The CD is accompanied by two booklets. One provides brief biographies of the authors, and the other, the Yiddish text of the readings along with brief notes on the readings.
- 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.
- Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary, by Uriel Weinreich.
With more than 20,000 entries ranging from colloquial to literary Yiddish, this dictionary is an essential reference guide for anyone who reads Yiddish or who is currently learning Yiddish.
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