Seven Considerations for Yiddish Translation

At LinguaLinx, languages are our business and our passion. We’d like to shed some light on a language that we are asked to translate into that many people may not know a lot about: Yiddish. For this post, we’ve enlisted the help and insight of Scott Forkel, our Vendor Manager. Scott’s role at LinguaLinx is critical – he supervises the sourcing and vetting of linguists to ensure we work with the best resources for our clients!

Here are seven items to consider when looking closely at Yiddish translation.

  1. Yiddish is not Hebrew. It uses the Hebrew alphabet, but they are members of two different language families. Hebrew is a Semitic language (like Arabic and Amharic). Yiddish is a Germanic language that originated among the Ashkenazi Jews in Central and Eastern Europe.
  2. Many Yiddish words have entered the English language. Some of these include bagel, mensch, schlep, schmooze and spritz.
  3. At one time, there were 11 million Yiddish speakers worldwide – mostly in Europe. This number dramatically declined during the Holocaust, World War II and immediately afterwards. In the United States, there are about 154,763 Yiddish speakers.
  4. An overwhelming majority of Yiddish speakers in the United States live in New York, mostly in neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York City. Yiddish is used as the vernacular amongst the growing Hasidic community. Hebrew is used for prayer and study, only.
  5. Yiddish language has experienced a rebirth. College and universities offer courses in Yiddish language and literature.
  6. The Yiddish language has been continually enriched as a result of being in contact with speakers of other languages due to Jewish trade and business travel around the world.
  7. Yiddish has an extensive lexicon for expressing the emotions and events of everyday life which is why Yiddish has naturally found its way into many prominent works in literature, music and theater.

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