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Yiddish

Photo courtesy of Roberta Molokandov

Quick Facts

 

Total Worldwide Speakers:1,510,430

 

Language Family: Indo-European, Germanic

 

Spoken in:
 
Israel, Germany, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Belarus

 

History:
 

There have been Jews in area that is now Germany since Roman times. A distinct Jewish culture known as Ashkenazi, or Germanic Jewry, appeared by the 10th century. Ashkenaz was the medieval Hebrew name for Germany, though the Ashkenaz area also included parts of northern France and later spread to Eastern Europe.

 

The every-day language of the Ashkenazic Jews was Middle High German. They also used Hebrew and their German included Hebrew words and phrases. From the 13th century they started to use the Hebrew script to write their language, which linguists refer to as Judeo-German or occasionally Proto-Yiddish. The earliest known fragment of Judeo-German is a rhyming couplet in a Hebrew prayer book dating from 1272 or 1273.

 

During subsequent centuries, Judeo-German gradually developed into a distinct language, Yiddish, with two main dialects: Western Yiddish, which was widely spoken in Central Europe until the 18th century, and Eastern Yiddish, which was spoken throughout Eastern Europe and Russia/USSR until World War II. As a result of the Holocaust, Jewish communities throughout Europe were destroyed and the use of Yiddish as an every-day language went into sudden decline.

 

 

Sources: The Ethnologue & Omniglot

Web-Based Resources

Web-Based Software

Mango Languages LogoMango Languages is available free to all Saint Michael's students, faculty, and staff in a number of languages. Each Mango lesson is focused on practical, common conversation skills and includes instruction on vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture. Regular and Biblical versions of Hebrew are also available.

For assistance with Mango, please see the Getting Started with Mango Languages guide.