1. What follows is a simplified version of the
romanization (transcription) convention developed by YIVO. It is easy to
use, once you have gotten the hang of it - not a daunting task.
The scheme is quite straightforward, and it provides a uniform way to write
''any'' Yiddish word in any Yiddish dialect; if you can say it, you can
write it, and be sure that readers will know just how you're saying it. What
more can be asked of a transcription scheme?
2. The first column gives the names of the Yiddish
letters and letter-combinations; the second column gives their approximate
sound equivalents, for the most part in English; be warned that some of the
English examples will be interpreted differently by native speakers of
English from various dialect regions. The third column illustrates the
transcription with Yiddish words. (The letters in square brackets in the
first column occur only in words derived from Hebrew or Aramaic; their
transcription in the third column is preceded by [H].) Writers not familiar
with the Yiddish alphabet can ignore the first column altogether.
3. Note that the consonants and most of the vowels are
pronounced in much the way that some other European languages pronounce
them. There are a few possible exceptions, arising out of dialectal
differences. For example: the Yiddish word for "good" is ALWAYS spelled
giml-vov-tes, and the table shows that the Standard pronunciation of the vov
(except when it's at the end of a syllable) is like the u in English "put";
so the Standard pronunciation is /gut/, rhyming with English "put". But the
dialects of many native speakers call for pronouncing this vov as /i/, and
these speakers would say and transcribe the word as /git/; such variants are
welcome on Mendele.
4. The diphthongs may require some thought at first;
/ey/ romanizes the sound in "Hey!" or "grey"; /ay/ stands for the sound of
the "ay" in "Mayan" or the "y" in "my"; and /oy/ transcribes the "oi" sound
in "oil" or "noise" (so the familiar expression of complaint or pain or
surprise is romanized /oy vey/, and the Standard Yiddish for "my mother" is
written /mayn mame/.)
5. Note that the shtumer (silent) alef has no sound
equivalent or transcription. In Yiddish, it is written at the beginning of
words before the vowels and diphthongs pronounced /u/, /oy/, /i/, /ey/, and
* I.e., trilling either the tip of the tongue or
Some General Points (adapted from Zellig Bach,
Each letter (or letter combination) in the third column
has a specific sound. Remember that the YIVO scheme is meant to be
efficient, unambiguous and easy to use; unnecessary letters just confuse the
1. No double consonants; they don't tell you anything.
Write: ale, alemen, bobe, feder, got [God], shabes, yidish (NOT alle,
allemen, bobbe, fedder, gott, shabbes, yiddish).
2. Excise the puste (empty) h's, since they provide no
additional information: No "h" after the stressed vowel in words of German
origin. Write: amol, yor, geyn, shteyn (NOT amohl, yohr, gehn, shtehn). And
no "h"s after the final vowel in words of Hebrew or Slavic origin; they
don't add any information either. Write: khale, kale, khevre, metsie, take
(NOT khaleh, kaleh, khevreh, metsieh, takeh).
3. Skip the shtume (silent) e's: Write: bisl, fargesn,
gutn, lakhn, zisn, shtetl (NOT bisel, fargesen, guten, lakhen, zisen,
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JIDDISCH - YIDDISH - JIDISH - YIDISH
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