Can Germans Understand Yiddish

Paul   Friday, January 02, 2004, 09:48 GMT
Would your average German man in the street be able to understand an American who spoke to him in Yiddish?
Hank Brass   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 05:05 GMT
I don't know what being an American has to do with it, but an aunt of mine, whose first language was Yiddish, claimed to have gotten by on a visit to German-speaking Switzerland on the strength of her Yiddish.
Clark   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 07:46 GMT
Yiddish, Pennsylvania German, Swiss-German and many Southern-German, Austrian and Swiss German accents are (very) similar. There is a Yiddish-speaker in our pipeband who understands what I say in PA German, and I understand what he says in Yiddish.

Hank Brass, perhaps Paul was refering to the fact that most Yiddish-speakers are in America; therefore, he said an American speaker of Yiddish (?).
Paul   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 10:20 GMT
Thanks for your replies.

As a Brit I have only seen Yiddish referred to in novels. They have always had it being spoken in Jewish communities in the US and I did assume that they (Americans) were the main users of the language. I have just started reading a novel where an American visiting Germany speaks to Bavarians in Yiddish. I was quite surprised as I had never realised the two languages were so similar. Hence my question.

I don't speak German myself but watching German television channels can usually understand a little of what is being said. However, when I switch to Swiss television I find it very hard to recognise that they are speaking German - it sounds completely different.
Jordi   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 12:23 GMT
I'm just quoting H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921. In his article on Yiddish he states:
"Basically, a medieval High German, it has become so overladen with Hebrew, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian and even Hungarian words that it is unintelligible to Germans."
"During the war I visited Lithuania and Livonia while they were occupied by the Germans. The latter could not understand the Yiddish of the native Jews, but there were in almost every town a few Jews who had been to the United States and could speak English, and these were employed as interpreters. Among the Germans, of course, there were many English-speaking officers."
Christian   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 14:19 GMT
Yes, off course! Many yiddish words are more or less similar to there German equivalents.

Shmek : es schmeckt (smell)
Fartik: Fertig(ready)
Geld: Das Geld(money)
Dreck: Der Dreck(crap)
Shmutz: Der Schmutz(dirt)
Otem: Der Atem(breath)
kapitl: Das Kapitel(chapter)

Vee Geyts? : Wie geht's?
A sheynem dank: Einen schönen Dank
and and thousands of words more.

And Yiddish is: Di Jidishe Shprach (Die jüdische(jidische) Sprache)

So, if you speak German, you will not have any problems to understand and read yiddish. (Especially in Bavaria, Franconia and in the Saxon states, because this accents are related to yiddish).
Unfortunately, high German has destroyed a lot of old German and Jewish accents in the last 250 years(especially after 1870). The influence of Latin(today 30 - 40% of High German words are of Latin orgin), was not even good for Yiddish. As a result, after circa 1890 - 1900, Yiddish was only spoken in Eastern Europe. And then the horrible Holocaust reduced the Yiddish speaking community to a minimum of its former size.

But Yiddish is still alive in the "informal" German language until today. Words like Schmock, Schnaps or Mischpoke, are used very often.

Fortunately, the jewish community of Germany(now over 100.000) is the fastes growing in the world and you can learn Yiddish in the German Universities. So I'm very optimistic, that Yiddish will never die in good old Europe.
Christian   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 21:39 GMT
I posted a thread several months back about the Latin influence on languages, and I wwas wondering which languages have high/low amounts of Latin borrowings. English has roughly 60% (30% from French [which came from Latin] and 30% from Latin itself). Do you know of an internet site where I could find this information about the German language having 35%-ish Latin word origins?
Clark   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 21:40 GMT
Christian, sorry! That last post was mine, but I put your name there instead of addressing it to you.
Christian   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 22:51 GMT
The statistic is in my old school book. In the chapter they tried to explain us, why we should learn English/Latin and not French or Italian.
The statistic says that in English 40-60% of the words are of latin orgin and in German 30-40%. And that, if we learn Latin, we would be able to learn French or Italian much faster. However.
There is also a list with a few exemplas of words of Latin orgin in European languages:

Hodie ferias habemus. - Heute haben wir Ferien. (German)

Difficile est eum nunc visitare. - It is difficult to visit him now. (English)

Nonne Gallia divisa est in partes tres? - La France est-elle divisée en trois parties? (French)

Servus rotas movet. - El motor mueve las ruedas. (Spanish)

Ecce forum Romanum! - Ecco il Foro Romano! (Italian)

The biggest advantage of a German speaker, who likes to learn English and Latin is, that there is a strong relation to English and German has, as the only European language, the same way of spelling than than the Romans.(an A is an A, a B is a B, a c is a C etc.).

It is great if you speak German and Latin. If you speak German, it is extremely easy to learn Dutch, Norse, Swedish or Yiddish. And if you can speak Latin, it is very easy to learn French or Italian.
Christian   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 23:35 GMT

I found a very interesting site. The name is "Latin in German".

The link: