Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yiddish and High School Drop Outs

I had always thought that Yiddish was a “Jewish” language. I had never realized that it was just the language that was spoken in Europe, and was the cultural language. In elementary school we would learn Yiddish when we translated text in the chumash. All that I remember from it is the beginning words “Vayomer – in er hut ge zukt”. Some of my classmates were from boro park so they heard Yiddish more often and it was easier for them to catch on.

My friend was able to make a deal with the teacher in 5th grade, that she didn’t have to know the Yiddish translation. After hearing this, I decided I’ll give it a shot too and see if I can get away with it. So I went over to my teacher, and I told her I had a hard time with all the Yiddish. So she made a deal with me, it wasn’t as generous a deal that she made with my friend. She told me I would only be responsible to know the Yiddish translation for the first posuk we do a day. That definitely was a huge cut back from the regular amount of posukim we did a day, so I was grateful.

After Elementary school, I never encountered Yiddish again. I would go to my grandparents, and my grandmother would speak to me in Yiddish and I had no clue what she was saying, and would look at her with a questioning face. Then she would remember that I didn’t know Yiddish and would tell me I have to start learning it so that I can understand people.

Then the other day I found an article that sheds light to this Yiddish situation, and to the High School drop out rate. It goes like this, all old European Jews were fluent in their native language, whether it be Hungarian or French. So then why is that here in America there are people who think they don’t have to know English? That they just talk Yiddish and then therefore they can’t get a job and support their family. Or even if they do have their own business, they can’t interact with other people, and it severely limits them. Even Rambam and Rashi were fluent and wrote in their native languages. Part of the Gemara was even written in Aramaic and not in Hebrew.

Studies have showed surprising results. That the families who shelter their kids, don’t have a lower amount of at risk teens, but rather a higher one than those that don’t shelter their kids. The uneducated children grow up with poverty, are unhappy and therefore more open to negative influences. So once we start educating our children the right way then it can help solve 2 issues at once. By learning English they will become more successful, as language is a vital tool to communication. Second there will be less at risk teens. They will be happier and content, and won’t feel the need to “figure things out” for themselves.


Anonymous said...

Here's the way I see it. Everyone has to come out into the world sometime in their life. If you've been sheltered completely then it becomes a massive culture shock when you do, and you naturally want to leave the world you grew up in to find out whats on the other side. If you've grown up with an awareness of whats out there, its not so enticing.

Rab Yaakov Horowitz says that out-of-town kids have a lesser drop-out rate. Of course, the figures are hard to calculate as there's so many Jews in NY/NJ compared to outside, and noones ever done an actual study on such things.

Leora said...

About the second half of your post, I'm just going to say I think parents should be responsible enough to see that children can support themselves in this world.

About Yiddish: I agree with your grandmother, learn some Yiddish while you can. My mother-in-law actually teaches Yiddish. I wish I knew the language. My father first encountered Yiddish in Yeshiva; he had to learn it, because that's what his rebbes spoke (Chaim Berlin in the 1930s). I gather his parents spoke English at home.

Shorty said...

Isn't it amazing how "powerful" the English language has become? My "cousin in law" is a writer in Europe, has an English sounding pen-name and is getting books published in English because she simply can't live off the publication of books in her mother tongue.

Posters all over Europe to "learn English and make more money".

Sure, learn the language of the country you are living in - that kind of goes without saying...but I think keeping the Yiddish "alive" is equally as important. Lets not become too melting pot, eh? :)

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Frum Punk: I agree with you. Which is why my seminary principal had said that on purim when his children become teenagers he gives them a cigarette to smoke so that they get their first smoke under his supervision and they will realize they don't like it and won't try it again, and it won't be forbidden fruit since their father had gave it to them himself.

Leora:yea, it even says that in Pirkei Avos, that a father has the responsibility to make sure the kid is trained in some field so that they will be able to get a Parnassah.

Yea, so about the Yiddish, I suppose it doesn't hurt to learn a new language, but if the main language is English then I would think everyone should learn English to communicate.

Shorty: I didn't even think of that, so English is even more important, in that it's a universal language, that everyone knows it's the popular language.

I suppose it's nice to keep Yiddish alive, but if it doesn't have any Jewishness to it, and it's only sentimental value, then I don't see why it's so important. I mean I see some of the importance.

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