Dog language is strange and unknowable to human ears. One bark may be a request to go outside while another, seemingly identical one, may be an attempt to warn about an intruder hiding in the upstairs closet with a knife. While trying to decode this strange, kibble-scented tongue is probably impossible, dogs will happily learn key words from any of our languages we put in front of them.
This is all to say that a bunch of dogs were taking Yiddish lessons in Central Park yesterday.
ABC7's Eyewitness News has footage of this program in action, which is recommended viewing for anyone who would like to see dogs running around on a sunny day or, in one case, wearing a doggy-sized kerchief. Held by The Workmen’s Circle—a non-profit that ABC writes “offers the largest Yiddish program in the world”—and trainer Miguel Rodriguez, the event saw attendees teaching their pups Yiddish commands, including “sit” and “stay.”
“Yiddish, I find that the words are pretty sharp,” Rodriguez says in the clip. “So dogs really get the tones of words very well. I find they actually responded to it better than English.”
An older clip uploaded to YouTube back in 2017, gives a bit more background on this whole thing. In it, The Workmen’s Circle’s executive director Ann Toback explains that the idea came about in order to help teach Yiddish as a practical, everyday language to those who might never attend more intensive classes.
Aside from an overall increase in Yiddish-fluent dogs, the program provides good encouragement for all of us with opposable thumbs to take inspiration from the multilingual pets to learn another language. If our furry pals—who, it must be remembered, need to be stopped from eating their own barf—can pick up another language, humans really have no excuse.
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