The Fully Authentic Final Exam for Elementary Yiddish I

Asya Schulman and Jessica Kirzane


These days, it has become increas­ing­ly com­mon for lan­guage instruc­tors to tai­lor exams to the authen­tic sit­u­a­tions and uses that stu­dents might be called upon to com­mu­ni­cate in the lan­guage they are study­ing. In keep­ing with these trends in lan­guage ped­a­gogy, we are proud to present our inno­v­a­tive series of speak­ing and writ­ing prompts for stu­dents fin­ish­ing their first semes­ter of Yiddish.

1. Translate the attached handwritten passage in bad handwriting on deteriorating paper from your next door neighbor’s uncle’s mother-in-law, which he found in his attic. There will be no monetary compensation for this task.

2. Decipher these seven phrases that sound vaguely like Yiddish that someone used to hear their grandmother-in-law loudly exclaim when she stubbed her toe.

3. Track down the author, title, publication information, source for the sheet music, performer, and recording of a Yiddish song. You will be provided with only seven mispronounced words from this song, and they are not all from the same stanza.

4. You’re at an academic conference and you are pregnant. A renowned professor who insists on speaking to you only in Yiddish keeps changing the topic to ask about your health. Try to change the subject to your research.

5. Decipher your grandmother’s emails, which are written in Bessarabian dialect, half transcribed in Roman characters and half in Israeli Hebrew transcription.

    6. You have received an email in which the writer “corrects” your Yiddish, despite the fact that they have no previous knowledge of the language. Respond tactfully.

    7. Provide Yiddish spellings and etymologies for the names of all of your friends’ newborn children and/or recently deceased relatives. Keep in mind that your advice will be irrevocably inscribed on the child’s birth certificate and/or the relative’s gravestone.

    8. Your acquaintance asks you to translate a Yiddish word that their grandfather used for them as a term of endearment when they were a child. Politely explain that this word is a vulgar term for genitalia but is whimsical and heartwarming in the diminutive.

    Schulman, Asya, and Jessica Kirzane. “The Fully Authentic Final Exam for Elementary Yiddish I.” In geveb, February 2021:
    Schulman, Asya, and Jessica Kirzane. “The Fully Authentic Final Exam for Elementary Yiddish I.” In geveb (February 2021): Accessed Jun 18, 2024.


    Asya Schulman

    Asya Vaisman Schulman is the director of the Yiddish Language Institute and the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA.

    Jessica Kirzane

    Jessica Kirzane is the assistant instructional professor of Yiddish at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD in Yiddish Studies from Columbia University. Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies.