In this video, you'll see Yiddish letters in both print and cursive forms, with accompanying audio that provides the names of the letters and the sounds they make.
Things to keep in mind as you watch the video:
- The Yiddish alphabet is written from right to left.
- The cursive form of a letter is sometimes quite different from its print form. You will learn to read the print letters and both read and write the cursive letters. As you learn to write in cursive, follow the motions in the video to form the letters correctly.
- Five of the letters have a different form when they appear at the end of a word. (For example, langer khof – ך – appears only at the end of a word, whereas khof – כ – appears anywhere else.)
- There are six letters (בֿ, ח, כּ, שׂ, תּ, ת) that appear only in words deriving from Hebrew and Aramaic. Each of these letters has the same sound as another letter in the alphabet.
- The vowels ו and י, as well as the diphthongs (vowel combinations) ײ, ײַ, and ױ cannot appear at the beginning of a word. They are always preceded by a shtumer alef (א) at the beginning of a word.
• Rules about yud and khirek yud:
- The letter yud (י) can sometimes be a consonant (pronounced "y" as in "yes") and sometimes a vowel (pronounced "i" as in "give" or "ea" as in "leave").
- When yud appears at the beginning of a word (not preceded by a shtumer alef) or next to a vowel, it is read as a consonant (for example, יאָ - yo and פּיאַנע - pyane).
- When yud appears between two consonants or after a shtumer alef, it is read as a vowel (for example, פֿיס - fis and אים - im).
- The yud is spelled with khirek (a dot below the yud -- יִ) when it appears next to a vowel and should be read as a vowel, not a consonant (for example, העברעיִש - hebreish).
- The khirek also appears under a yud being used as a vowel when it follows a yud being used as a consonant (for example, ייִדיש - yidish) or a vov being used as a vowel (for example, רויִק - ruik), to distinguish the letter combinations from the diphthongs tsvey yudn and vov yud, respectively.
- Note that two consecutive unmarked yudn spell the diphthong tsvey yudn (ײ), pronounced like the English "ei" in the word "weigh". Two yudn with a pasekh underneath spell the diphthong pasekh tsvey yudn (ײַ), pronounced like the English "aye".
• Rules about vov and melupm vov:
- The vowel vov (ו) is spelled with a melupm (a dot in the center of the letter -- וּ) when it appears before or after the consonant tsvey vovn (װ) (for example, װוּ - vu).
- A melupm is also added to the first vov of two consecutive vovn when both letters are vowels (for example, טוּונג - tuung).
- Note that two consecutive unmarked vovn spell the consonant tsvey vovn (װ), pronounced like the English "v".
• Consonant clusters:
- To make the sound "j" as in "jam," use the consonant cluster daled zayen shin (דזש).
- To make the sound "g" as in "beige," use the consonant cluster zayen shin (זש).
- To make the sound "ch" as in "cheese," use the consonant cluster tes shin (טש).
- Can you find the five letters that have a different form when they appear at the end of a word? What are they?
- Which pairs or groups of letters sound the same?
Find the alef-beys chart here.