Talya Zax writes in the Forward about someone as intriguing as the Russian who learned Scottish Gaelic for Lermontov’s sake:
While writing her Ph.D. dissertation on Jewish Exile in Shanghai resulting from the Shoah, Yang Meng decided she needed to learn both Yiddish and Hebrew for the sake of her research. A Chinese national already fluent in English and German, once she took on the new languages she found herself fascinated by Yiddish, which she wrote to the Forward “is an indispensible key to understand[ing] Jewish culture.”
As part of her studies she participated in the 2015 Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program at Tel Aviv University. For that program’s closing ceremony she performed a song that was entirely unique: a Yiddish rewriting of a classic Chinese song, which she had translated into Yiddish with the assistance of Yuri Vedenyapin, a Yiddish language instructor based at Harvard.
The lyrics of the Chinese song, Liang Hongzi’s 1983 “Wishing We Last Forever,” is a musical setting of a poem by Su Shi, famed Chinese poet and essayist, written in 1076. “This song ‘Chinese Moon Over Tel Aviv’ is the first Chinese-Yiddish song in human history,” Meng wrote. “I am very attracted to the mamaloshen”—Yiddish for ‘the mother tongue—“and I hope I can bring Yiddish language and culture to my beloved China.”
You can hear the song and see a translation of the lyrics at the link, but as I wrote Paul Ogden, who sent it to me, I’ll bet people were singing Chinese-Yiddish songs in Shanghai nightclubs in the 1930s.