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Yiddish, a Fusion of Languages

Yiddish is a Germanic language, and its main speakers are Ashkenazi Jews in the United States, Israel and in many countries in Eastern Europe, with a smaller number of speakers scattered throughout the rest of the world.

The language of Ashkenazi Jews was also German and Hebrew. During the 13th century, they incorporated the Hebrew alphabet as the graphical representation of their language.

Over time, Yiddish evolved and became two different dialects: Western Yiddish, which was spoken in Central Europe in the 18th century, and Eastern Yiddish spoken in Eastern Europe, in what used to be the USSR.

Yiddish is the fusion of three linguistic components: the Germanic, Slavic and Semitic. In addition to the vocabulary, these three elements have contributed to the phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of this language.

In 1908, in what is now Ukraine, Yiddish was accepted as the “national language of the Jewish people.” Yiddish continued to conquer more fields such as literature, theater and the press.

This vivid and rich language also suffered the horror of the Holocaust, and nowadays is dispersed among its survivors…

In 1995, the European Council adopted a resolution to guarantee support for the language and culture. Today, Yiddish is a natural, vernacular language among Orthodox Jews.


It is estimated that Yiddish is spoken by 1 to 3 million Jews, mostly residing in the United States. There are communities that speak the language in Antwerp, London, Israel, Alsace, Holland and Switzerland. In Eastern Europe, it is spoken in parts of Belarus and Ukraine.

Some characteristics of Yiddish are:

  • The writing system is the historic Jewish alphabet, the Hebrew one.
  • One of the great influences on Yiddish has been Hebrew vocabulary. In Yiddish, there are Hebrew words of everyday use.
  • The other major influences on the development of this language were the Slavic languages, this is why many everyday words are of Slavic origin (káchke: duck, in Polish: kachka; Tate: father, in Czech: tata).
  • Yiddish has a well developed system of diminutives of German origin, but with a Slavic grammatical base.
  • The verbs are conjugated only in the present indicative tense and the other tenses are expressed by auxiliary words. In the sentence order, the verb follows the subject, like in English.

This is a language rich in its grammar, vocabulary and culture. It is a complex language to translate, since it involves the understanding of many cultures to correctly transfer the text into the target language.

Its alphabet is the Hebrew one, but being fluent in Hebrew does not necessarily mean that someone can translate Yiddish …