Yiddish is most associated with Jewish people, particularly the Ashkenazi Jews. It has been translated into many languages, but until now not a non-European one.

One man has changed this through his life’s work. Kazuo Ueda is a Japanese linguist who originally specialised in German before teaching himself Yiddish. He is now Japan’s leading scholar in the language, and several years ago published a Japanese-Yiddish dictionary.

But why did Ueda become so devoted?

He stumbled upon the Jewish language while reading Franz Kafka, himself a fan of Yiddish theater.

Ueda was immediately smitten with the language that is written in Hebrew letters, but is a hybrid of German, Hebrew, Russian and other languages.

“Yiddish was full of puzzles for me,” Ueda says. “That’s what I love about it. Reading sentences in those strange letters — it’s like deciphering a code.” (Source: NPR)

Perhaps language learners can take something from this story – to learn a language well requires a little bit of love.