There is one Yiddish word that is native to me: gesundheit. It’s what anyone said when another person sneezed. I’d say it, too, not knowing what it meant. By the time I learned the English — bless you, or God bless you — I was atheist enough that those were words I would never say.
A couple more language notes about my mother: In college she signed up to take German, having studied Latin all through high school. She was fluent in Yiddish, so she was sure German would be easy. Not only was it not easy, it was the only class she ever flunked. German was just different enough from Yiddish, yet with enough similarities, that she couldn’t disentangle the two languages. But again, the unasked, thus unanswered questions: what were were the differences, and what were the similarities?
In her 60s, she traveled to China many times, and attended a month-long language class for “foreigners.” She learned Chinese and was one of only two students in that class who wrote their final exam using characters instead of the pinyin transliteration.
I’m participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day 2 of the 31-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!