Yiddish Beginner I

Course Status: 
CEU code: 
CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
19 Sep 2016 - 9 Dec 2016
Szonja Ráhel Komoróczy

SLTG 5009 - Yiddish Beginner I

Introduction to the language and culture of Ashkenazi Jews


Language course, 2 credits

2016/17 Fall Term


Instructor: Szonja Ráhel Komoróczy

e-mail: KomoroczyS@ceu.edu

Office Hours: by appointment


Yiddish is 1000 years old, with a very rich linguistic, cultural, literary heritage, its first written literary source dating from 1272. Yiddish was the language spoken by most Ashkenazi Jews until the Holocaust, and it has over half a million speakers today. Yiddish can be important in the fields of history, anthropology, sociology, cultural heritage studies, women’s studies, and many more fields.

As Jewish languages in general, Yiddish is written with the Hebrew alphabet. But having developed in the homeland of Ashkenazi Jews, from a dialect of Middle High German, it contains approximately 70% Germanic elements in vocabulary and grammar – and it is therefore fairly easy to learn for speakers of other Germanic languages. The two-term course is designed to introduce students with no, or very little previous knowledge to Yiddish language and written heritage.


Goals and learning outcomes

The objectives of the course are twofold. Students should master basic Yiddish: reading, writing and conversation. And they should get an overview of Yiddish written sources, ranging from historical sources through folksongs to literature. By the end of the first term, students will be able to engage in simple conversations, know common greetings and expressions, and read simple texts.



Classes will be based on active student participation, and will focus on reading and speaking skills. There will be homework assigned regularly – these assignments are essential for progress and will be discussed in class. Students should be aware that in order to successfully participate in the course, they will have to dedicate extra time outside the classroom (at least double the time we spend in the classroom).



Regular attendance (at least 10 sessions out of 12) is mandatory for everyone, including those who are registered only for Audit. (According to the SLTG Guidelines, students signed up for Audit who fail to meet this requirement will be given a W, or withdraw, grade.)



Student performance will be assessed by regular, bi-weekly tests: four short tests of ca. ten minutes at the beginning of every second session (10 % each) and the mid-term (week 6) and final (week 12) written exam (25 % each), homework and class work (10%).



Classes will be based on Uriel Weinreich, College Yiddish. An Introduction to the Yiddish Language and to Jewish Life and Culture (New York: YIVO, several editions).


Week 1

• Introduction

• Reading Yiddish

• Article and gender, word order, direct questions


Week 2

• The origins of Yiddish

• Adjectives, accusative, negative


Week 3

• The sociology of Yiddish

• Plural, dative, the use of me / men


Week 4

• Yiddish dialects, standard language

• Personal pronoun, present tense, declension of names


Week 5

• The structure of Yiddish

• Imperative, title of address, hobn and zayn

• Revision


Week 6

• Mid-term test

• Indirect object, irregular infinitives, tsu + infinitive


Week 7

• The Hebrew-Aramaic component in Yiddish

• Past tense


Week 8

• The study of Yiddish

• Clauses as sentence units, declension of pronouns


Week 9

• The earliest sources of Yiddish

• Prepositions, reflective verbs


Week 10

• Religious vs. secular Yiddish

• Complemented verbs


Week 11

• Haskalah and Yiddish

• Revision


Week 12

• Written Exam