Mock-up of Pigeon Bagel's Duolingo-fied storefront courtesy of Duolingo.

If you want to nosh for nothing, schlep your tuches to Pigeon Bagels on April 6 between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and say “ken ikh hubn a baygl mit shmirkeyz.” That’s Yiddish for “I would like a bagel with schmear.”

Your pronunciation doesn’t have to be perfect; just do your best to earn a free breakfast.

The bakery, located at 5613 Hobart Street in Squirrel Hill, is usually closed on Tuesdays, but it’s making an exception for a special nationwide event to celebrate the launch of Duolingo’s Yiddish language course.

Pigeon Bagels will join Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City, Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen in Chicago, Factor’s Famous Deli in Los Angeles and Zak the Baker in Miami to give away cream cheese-coated bagels for the promotion.

Headquartered in East Liberty, Duolingo runs the world’s most popular language-learning platform with its most downloaded language app. Yiddish, which originated in the Ashkenazi Jewish community in medieval Europe and has been carried by the Jewish diaspora to nearly every continent, is the company’s 40th language offering.

Image courtesy of Duolingo.

Students will learn how to read and write Yiddish, which uses a modified version of the Hebrew script, and pronounce words with a Hungarian Yiddish dialect. They will also learn about cultural concepts.

There were once as many as 13 million Yiddish speakers, but today the number is around 600,000. The language has roots in German, Hebrew, Russian and Polish and many of its words and terms have been adopted by English speakers in North America, including “nosh,” “bagel,” “maven” and “spiel.”

For an English speaker, Yiddish might feel more like learning German in terms of vocabulary and grammar than a language such as Hebrew or Arabic.

Duolingo launches at least one new course each year. The last one for English speakers was Finnish in June 2020 which now has 500,000 active learners. Earlier in 2021, the company introduced a Korean program for Japanese learners.

The Yiddish course, which has been in development on and off for five years, marks the first time a language has been tied to an event like the bagel giveaway.

Try not to get too verklempt by the act of kindness.

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.