Book Review: The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish

Book Review: The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish

I grew up in Cardiff, Wales and London, England, and the only Yiddish I ever heard at home was when my Grandma wanted to say something to my Mum not in front of the “kinder” [children]. But I spent summers in the US with my Hungarian / Romanian Saba and Savta and heard a lot more Yiddish – but it was very different from the Yiddish I heard back home. Almost as if it were two separate languages.

I understand a lot of Yiddish – can even understand a good Yiddish joke, but speaking it – well, I murder the language, because I never learnt it formally. My spoken Yiddish is shreklekh – horrible.

But help is at hand. The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish written by Rabbi Moshe Sheritzen, published by Menucha Publishers,  is a delightful pocket phrasebook designed with the busy person in mind. The introduction is a fun look at the author’s introduction to the language, and an explanation behind the book, and the rest of it is chapter after chapter of useful phrases. In English, in Hebrew lettering – and transliterated into English pronunciation!

I can now head into the local grocery store in the heart of Monsey and ask them confidently where they have Kartofl – potatoes, and shvom – mushrooms. (Shvom? I have never heard that word. Perhaps my family never ate them? Perhaps our Yiddish had a different word?)

It helps a lot that I learned German and Hebrew in school. (Thanks Mrs Goldstein and Mrs Moller). But it also confuses me because Yiddish sentence structure seems to be different from German. In fact, I think I have to forget all the Yiddish I learned before I started reading this book, and just keep studying the different sections until I have my Yiddish down pat.

This is a must-have book for anyone wanting to be more au-fait with Yiddish. Seriously, it’s ridiculously easy and within an hour you will be able to string together a decent sentence. It’s also simple enough that kids can enjoy it too, and learn while having fun.

I provided the link to purchase it through Amazon below.

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my honest review, but I received a copy of the book gratis.

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  1. Abe Kohen says:

    If I didn’t already speak Yiddish, I doubt that I would try to learn it at all and certainly not from a book. It’s true that I was 5 years old when I came to America and learned Yiddish in my first month here (English in the second month) through immersion in Williamsburg. Immersion, at any age, is the best way to learn any language (which is also how I learned my fourth language – Hebrew). Aramaic, I can read and understand, but I cannot speak it since it was book learned (Talmud). Shvom? I guess we never ate mushrooms in my childhood, or we asked for it in Hungarian. ;-)

    • HaDassah says:

      Seems they didn’t have Shvom in Wales either. My mother has never heard of the word.

      • Abe Kohen says:

        From the German: Schwamm: sponge, eraser, fungus, dry rot, punk

        I recall some people using the French champignon instead.

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