Jews in Central Europe and Eastern Europe prior to World War II spoke the Yiddish language. Today, Jews residing in Israel, the U.S. and other areas in the world speak the language. The Yiddish language is written utilizing the Hebrew alphabet. The vocabulary and grammar of the language is German. The language is not a German dialect, but is a complete language. It belongs to a family of Germanic languages that include Afrikaans, Dutch and English. Similar words in Yiddish and German have different meanings.
The meaning of Yiddish is literally Jewish. It is though that the beginnings of Yiddish began to develop in the 10th century as the Jews that lived in Italy and France travelled to the German Rhine Valley. These Jews created a language that included various German dialects, Jewish Italian, Jewish French and Hebrew elements. When the Jews became established in Eastern Europe, Slavic components were added to Yiddish.
The Yiddish language is natively spoken in Austria, Sweden, France, Australia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Mexico, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine, Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Israel and the United States. There are almost two million native speakers of the language with more than 11 million people that speak Yiddish as a second language. It is the legally official language in Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. It is recognized as the minority language in the Ukraine, Sweden, Romania, Poland, Netherlands, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Yiddish is spoken and written by Orthodox Jewish populations all over the world. There are fair amounts of Orthodox Jews who do not speak Yiddish. It is the first language that is learned by children in Hasidic communities. This is the language that is utilized in social settings and in school.
It is difficult to conclude the degree to which spoken Yiddish differed from German. Hebrew words were used explicitly for Jewish objects rather than German. There is a consensus that by the 15th century Yiddish sounded distinctly different than German. In its written from the oldest document is a Yiddish blessing. This blessing is found in the Worms mahzor. This is a Hebrew prayer book written in 1272. The blessing is written in Yiddish with the Hebrew alphabet in which Hebrew words makhazor and synagogue were included.
In religious sects, the Ashkenazi Haredi Jews continue to speak the Yiddish language. The Lithuanian Jews and the Hasidic Jews continue to speak, teach and utilize the Yiddish language. This make Yiddish the language of choice for hundreds of thousands of Jews today. The areas with the largest populations of these Jews are Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. There is a revival happening concerning the interest in Yiddish traditions among Israelis. This is revival is evidenced by growing proactive cultural societies and Yiddish theatres. These theatres usually provide translation of the Yiddish to Russian and Hebrew. Young Israelis are flocking to the universities to take courses in Yiddish. These young people are achieving fluency in the language.
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