Yiddish Reading Basics

 

 

Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet, and it is read from right to left. In a sense, it is easier to learn to read than Hebrew and English because it is written totally phonetically, the vowels are almost always spelled the same.
Vowels are formed by letters and letter combinations, unlike Hebrew in which the vowels are sounded differently according to different grammatical rules, or indicated by symbols under or on top of each letter.
(The vowels אָ and אַand ײַare exceptions in that they have symbols to indicate a difference in sound, but each of these three letter and symbol combination always denote a particular vowel sound. The other exception is Hebrew words that have entered the language and retained their original Hebrew spelling. During the course, we will spell these out in phonetic Yiddish, as well as transliterate them. And of course you can hear them pronounced!)
Click on the words with links to hear how they sound. You can play it again, or click the word to hide the player. The vowels are pronounced according to the Litvish, or Lithuanian dialect. Besides being the YIVO (Institute for Jewish Research, first founded in Vilna, Lithunia) standard, when you learn this dialect, the others are easy to master, as they have less differentiation.
Vowels
טאָג tog, day,
אָןon, without,
נאָרnor, only,
ou or uh as in Doug and duh, or sometimes O as in Doe. YIVO- o
אָ =
a as in ah, or Pa YIVO- a
אַ =
נעמען nemen, to take,
געלט gelt, money,
e as in eh, feh! YIVO- e
ע =
נול nul, zero,
גוט gut, good,
oo as in fool YIVO- u
ו =
טיר tir, door,
איז iz, is,
מיט mit, with,
ee as in green YIVO- i
י =
שיין sheyn, nice,
וויך veykh, soft,
a as in pay or day YIVO- ey
יי =
מײַן mayn, mine,
ווײַלbecause, vayl,
I as in I, pie, or hi YIVO- ay
ײַ =
לויפעןto run,  loyfen,
Oy! YIVO- oy
וי =

Consonants
א          silent, used at the beginning of words starting with vowels, or in between vowels
ב B
בֿ (generally for Hebrew spelling) V
ג G
דD
הH
ווV
זZ
חClear your throat! Like khalo. (Often spelled “challah” in English.) (Hebrew spelling) Kh
טT
יY
כּ(Hebrew spelling)K
כKh
ךSee the word veykh above.Kh
לL
מM
ם(final form, at end of word) m
נN
ן(final form) n
סS
פּP
פֿF
ף(final form)F
צLike in Pizza,or tzee-tzee fly. Or Matzah (matsa).Ts
ץ.As in “I’m going to plats .” (final form) tz
קK
רR
שSh
שׂ(Hebrew spelling) S
תּ(Hebrew spelling) T
ת(Hebrew spelling) S
זש         Like the “s” in the word “measure.” Sounds a little French, no? Zh
דזשAs in George, or Algemeiner Journal.(G) Dzh
טשLike in “chuga chuga choo-choo.” (Ch) Tsh

 

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