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
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 reader.
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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