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Yiddish Duolingo: A love-hate relationship?

The long awaited day is here! Yiddish is finally out on Duolingo. Nu, right after Finnish, but it's here.

Many of my students are now in the midst of playing, some for the very first time, the popular language-learning app, and my inbox has been flooded with responses. Well, it's a mixed bag...

"But what’s with the accent? Are there options?"
"Oh man the accents are not great. All their "u"s sound like "ee". Blum sounds like blim."
"I will certainly use it, but I am taking their quiz right now to figure out my level and some of their pronunciation is incorrect. I don’t think that matters terrifically much, but it was noticeable."

The main snag is the pronunciation. Duolingo decided to go Hasidic (Hungarian Yiddish), while adopting standardized Yiddish grammar and spelling, associated with the YIVO. A sensible decision since most native speakers of Yiddish are Hasidic, but a strange combination indeed.

Even so, other students are overjoyed. Hershele, an advanced beginner, writes:

"I love it! It’s what I have been waiting for! I already started mayn Duolingo Yiddish kurs mit a groys shmeykhl" [I started my course with a big smile]

Hershele in the midst of playing Yiddish Duolingo

Based on these first impressions, I think people are either gonna hate or love Yiddish Duolingo, but I don't think they will stop using it altogether. It'll be a love-hate relationship...

As for me, I love it! I think it's a great resource and free to boot! What's more, it's another sign that Yiddish is alive and well, and users will surely feel encouraged to take Yiddish classes in the future!


For a deeper review of Yiddish Duolingo, read Jordan Kutzik's article in the Forward.

To download the app, click here.

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