Wednesday, April 8, 2009

History of the Mother Tongue: THE STORY OF YIDDISH

On this Passover eve I find myself sentimental for my late parents since the last time I truly partook in an authentic seder was when they were still alive. When I think about my parents one of the sweetest memories I have of them was how they used to speak Yiddish around the house when they didn't want me and my brothers to figure out what they were saying about us (eventually we caught on). Both of my parents were first generation American children of predominantly Russian-Lithuanian immigrants. My father didn't even speak English until he was five-years old--his mother tongue was Yiddish--so I admit that I have a soft spot for this crazy-sounding yet beautifully expressive language. If you would like to learn more about this quirky dialect, Neal Karlen's The Story of Yiddish is the perfect place to start:  a unique, brashly entertaining, yet thoroughly researched telling of the language's story and how it is an unlikely survivor of the ages, much like the Jews themselves.

For a taste of the rhythm of the Yiddish language watch the video clip below of "Seinfeld" dubbed into Yiddish. Perfect!

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