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College Yiddish - 50th Anniversary Edition

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College Yiddish - 50th Anniversary Edition

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College Yiddish - 50th Anniversary Edition
An Introduction to the Yiddish Language and to Jewish Life and Culture
By Uriel Weinreich
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-914512-26-4

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - November 24, 2017

For decades, Uriel Weinreich's College Yiddish has been the go-to textbook for adult English speakers interested in learning Yiddish. Until recently, it has also been the primary textbook used in college-level, beginning Yiddish classes. In the last ten years or so, Weinreich's text has been replaced in many classes with Sheva Zucker's Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture, or one of the other newer Yiddish textbooks. Nonetheless, College Yiddish still holds the preeminent place in the pantheon of first year Yiddish textbooks - and at many schools is still the textbook of choice.

Weinreich (19251967), was a Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Columbia University for most of his career, and the son of Max Weinreich. One of the founders of the YIVO (Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut), which is currently known as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Max Weinreich was also a famed Yiddish linguist and teacher. The YIVO would eventually become the publisher of Uriel Weinreich's textbook, College Yiddish.

The first edition of College Yiddish was published in 1949. It was the first college-level Yiddish textbook for English speakers to be published, and it was rapidly adopted by most schools that taught Yiddish. The text takes a grammar-centered approach to the language, and is intended to be used over the course of a two-semester or one year program in beginning Yiddish. There are thirty lessons in the course, and they provide ample opportunity to perfect your reading and writing skills.

If you are working through this book on your own, you will need to seek out audio materials to use to practice your speech and aural skills as this book is not accompanied by recorded materials. Fortunately, students studying Yiddish in the post-internet age can take advantage of the numerous Yiddish plays, movies, radio broadcasts, music, books, and other cultural materials, many of which are freely available on the internet - no matter where you live. Best of all the YIVO has made an answer key to College Yiddish freely available. You can download a copy of the key at The answer key was based on the 2006 second printing of the sixth revised edition, so the answer might not match up exactly with all the available editions - but it will still prove a great help to independent learners.

If you are taking this class with an instructor or happen to live around fluent Yiddish speakers, you will have ample opportunity to work on your speaking and listening skills - if you make the effort. Cultural information, in English, is also presented to round-out the student's appreciation of the Yiddish language. By the end of this course, the diligent student will be well placed to enter an intermediate college-level Yiddish course, and to carry on basic conversations with other Yiddish speakers. You'll also be to read basic Yiddish texts and poems by the time you complete this course.

A note on buying a copy of College Yiddish... While a few used copies of this textbook are available, they tend to be very expensive. But never fear. The YIVO is still publishing this textbook, only now it is a print-on-demand title. If you go to your local bookstore, they should be able to order a new, paperback copy for you, at a much lower cost than the used hardback copies that abound.

The copy I used for this review was the 2011 fourth printing of the sixth revised edition. It is one of the print-on-demand copies and text is very legible, the binding solid, and is an all-around fantastic copy of an equally invaluable textbook. Even if you are studying Yiddish using one of the newer textbooks, this text will still prove of value as a reference guide.

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