As someone who grew up hearing and speaking Yiddish, it has been quite painful for me to see how the younger generation have almost totally abandoned the language of our forefathers.
The only remnants of Yiddish these days (by people under the age of 50) is in the Adass Shul and their school where - probably due to an influx of ex-Brooklyn and ex-Kiryas Joel Chassidish 'sons-in-law' - it seems to be thriving. And to give credit where due, the Adass Shul is, to the best of my knowledge, the only place left where all announcements, Aliyah 'auctions' and of course Droshos and Shiurim, are exclusively in 'Mameh Loshon'. It wasn't so long ago when this was the case in Caulfield, Yeshiva, Elwood, Mizrachi and of course Katanga. But no more. How sad.
(Admittedly, we have a few Chabad 'imports' who try their best to keep Yiddish alive in their homes, but with limited success. The Yeshiva - as a school - and the Yeshiva Gedola - seems to have given up on even trying.)
So it was with great pleasure that I read the following article in COL about a project to teach youngsters the basics of the language. I look forward to seeing our traditional tongue - the language spoken by all of our (and other) Rebbes - revived here in Melbourne and in Sydney.
A program developed by a group of bochurim Shluchim in Yeshiva College in Melbourne, aimed to give high school students critical skills for learning the Rebbe's Sichos in the original Yiddish, has gained worldwide popularity.
The unique program, entitled 'Back2Basics,' gives students basic Yiddish skills as well as the tools to learn the Rebbe's Sichos, so they can continue to learn on their own in the future.
What began with students learning from copies of the Sicha and a list of Yiddish word translations and explanations of difficult concepts, soon evolved into participants receiving professionally designed booklets. The number of attendees at the program grew each week as well, with students steadily advancing in their skills.
The entire community of Melbourne took advantage of this unique opportunity and various schools and individuals began using the booklets. Many adults who never had the chance to learn Yiddish when they were younger, viewed the booklets as a resource to finally do so.
Word of the program's success soon spread to the school in Sydney, where it was implemented and became extremely popular as well. Soon, schools and Yeshivas across the globe found out about this new resource and also wanted to use it to the benefit of their students. Programs such as Myshliach, YSP, and various others have used Back2Basics to familiarize the students with the Rebbe’s Sichos and give them the unique opportunity to learn on their own.
As one student said, “Learning the Sichos in their original form is something that everyone would love to be able to do, Back2Basics has made it available for just about anybody.”
The program's booklet has several features:
Translations: A collection of translated words that someone with very limited Yiddish would find difficult.
Classical Concepts: An overview of the entire Sicha, broken down into summaries of each individual concept.
Getting Started: A selected piece of the Sicha with every word translated. This part is geared for the beginner that is just starting to read Yiddish, to familiarize him with how the words flow.
Show Off Your Knowledge: Review Questions, which generally cover the main ideas discussed in the Sicha.
If you would like to receive the booklet weekly through email, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
And for anyone else interested in learning the language, here is a recently published book which should help: