Do you want to learn Yiddish online?
If so, then this post is for you! ❤️
It's not by any means comprehensive, but it should give you a fair amount to begin with. And if it leaves you wanting more, sign up for my weekly blog updates or follow me on Facebook / Twitter! In the coming months, I'll be writing about some fantastic online resources for Yiddish learners, including music, podcasts, cartoons, ebooks, comedy, Facebook groups, Twitter flame wars, and more. But in the meantime, here's what to start with!
Step 1: Subscribe to a Dictionary
By far, the two best online Yiddish dictionaries are:
Despite the titles, both dictionaries are searchable in both directions, from Yiddish to English and English to Yiddish. However, there are significant differences in orientation:
Both dictionaries require a paid subscription:
Personally? I subscribe to both. I find that these two dictionaries complement each other, such that words not found in one are typically found in the other. But for a beginner, either one alone would make a fine choice.
If you're looking for a free online dictionary, try this or this. Neither of these is as comprehensive or detailed as the subscription dictionaries, but hey - you get what you pay for! And if all you need is something basic, then these free options are a reasonable alternative.
Step 2: Learn the Alphabet
The Yiddish alphabet (the alef-beys) is almost identical to the Hebrew alphabet, but there are some minor differences that make it unique. Yiddish spelling rules are also significantly different than those for Hebrew. So even if you know Hebrew – or even especially if you know Hebrew – you should spend time learning the Yiddish alphabet.
The Yiddish Book Center put out some fabulous free resources for learning the alef-beys, including an interactive alphabet chart, an alphabet video, helpful guides to letters that either look alike or sound alike, reading practice with accompanying audio recordings, and more.
Step 3: Watch Cartoons and Play Computer Games
Yiddish Pop is a fantastic, FREE website for learning beginner Yiddish in a totally immersive environment. Each level is divided into 5 lessons. Each lesson includes an animated cartoon, an animated vocabulary lesson, an animated grammar lesson, a computer game, flashcards, writing activities, and more. And it's free! And adorable!
Click here for a quick video tour in English to help you get started.
Step 4: Read Some Poetry
Over on my Ko-Fi page, I've posted some of my own Yiddish poems, which I wrote specifically for beginners. Each poem focuses on a particular vowel sound. For example, one poem contains almost exclusively words with an "ay" sound (mayn, dayn, zayn...) Another features words with an "ey" sound (eygele, beygele, feygele...). With the help of a dictionary, you shouldn't have any trouble understanding these simple, playful poems!
Step 5: Take an Online Class or Work With a Tutor
Several institutions offer regular Yiddish classes online, including the Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North America, the Workmen's Circle, and YIVO.
If you prefer to work one-on-one with a private teacher, I would be delighted to talk with you about my tutoring services. I have worked with a wide range of students, from total beginners to native speakers. I believe in a student-first approach, tailoring each lesson to the specific goals, interests, personality, and learning style of each individual student. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation, and if you don't feel that I'm the right fit for you, I'll gladly refer you to someone else.
Step 6: Subscribe to This Blog and Follow Me On Social Media!
Hi! I'm Shuli Elisheva, a Yiddish poet, composer, and teacher based in Providence, Rhode Island.
In the coming months, I'll be blogging about some fantastic online resources for Yiddish learners, including music, podcasts, cartoons, ebooks, comedy, Facebook groups, Twitter flame wars, and more.
I'll also be sharing some of my own experiences learning Yiddish, including some rather embarrassing moments that I'm sure many a Yiddish student can well relate to!
And finally, I'll be posting regular vocab and grammar lessons, including "50 Ways to Say 'Laugh' in Yiddish," "Adventures in Yiddish Verb Aspects," "How (and Why!) to Talk About Mermaids and Werewolves in Yiddish," and so much more.
Sign up below for my e-mail list, and/or follow me on Facebook and Twitter, to be sure you never miss my weekly blog posts!
❤️ Shuli Elisheva