Researching my options for first-semester-of-college courses, when I noticed the existence of a sequence in Yiddish, my fate was sealed. Avoiding this introductory course was not a choice I could have freely made. There are so many reasons why it had to be.

Languages in particular and linguistics in general have interested me from a young age. My level of language education is, while respectable, woefully less than my level of interest. When I graduated from high school, I was fluent in French and strong in Hebrew. But that was eight years ago, and my facility with both has since deteriorated considerably — embarrassingly so with Hebrew — for lack of practice. While I do want to repair those relationships, and can probably complete the necessary language sequence with a semester or two of French, it's too early to be sure that's what I want to do. What if I'd rather follow the sequence in a new language? How will I know if I don't try one out? Or, for that matter, two? (I'm also learning Czech this semester.)

Linguistically, Yiddish is a logical choice for me to learn next. English, my native language, is a primarily Germanic tongue peppered with Romance and other influences; Yiddish, while formed out of differing environmental forces, shares a similarly mixed ancestry. My second language helps with the Romance aspects, my third means I'm already familiar with the shapes and sounds of the Yiddish alphabet.

Of course, there is also a personal and cultural connection. My family on my father's and mother's side were in eastern Europe two and three generations ago, respectively. My remaining grandmother once lived in a world, not too far from this one, in which Yiddish was spoken daily. That world is all but gone. It would be shameful for someone of my abiding fascination with language to miss a chance to learn some of what she and my lost relatives knew.

The best reason for me to study Yiddish is its tradition of intelligent humor — my favorite kind. I'm familiar with some Jewish humor, but not nearly enough, and would like to be able to better appreciate its history and origins. Perhaps some of Yiddish's colorful phrases will even help me to think of more colorful ways to express myself in other languages.