Week 11: Dress British, Think Yiddish

 The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 79 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 35 hours
I have reviewed 1,028 individual flashcards

I bought a new iPod on Friday. I have been using a relatively old iPhone for my studies, and it was not ideal. The memory was rapidly filling up, while the battery inevitably went kaput after a short while. The programs I used weren't happy with the phone's operating system or speed. I knew I was going to reach the end of what the phone could do relatively quickly, and so it was time for something new. I chose an iPod because, without all the space required for the phone, the device is able to make use of an enormous amount of memory, and it's a pleasure to use -- it just speeds along through all my tasks.

I suppose the project should now be called iPod Yiddish, but, honestly, the device doesn't matter. And I might change the name down the road anyway to something else as this project evolves. The first name I give a blog always seems like a placeholder for an eventual name I must give it.

I also bought a FitBit, which is neither here nor there, except that I can now track how much I walk. But the result of the FitBit is that I will be walking more, and so I will be listening to audiobooks. I took an hour-long walk last night and listened to several chapters of "The Yiddish Radio Project: Stories from the Golden Age of Yiddish Radio." I will write about that when I finish the book, and will be glad to -- this blog was never intended to simply be a description of the process of learning Yiddish, but, more broadly, a document of my engagement with the language.

But, in the meanwhile, I spent some time last week gamifying my learning. It's a rough draft just now, and I will continue to adapt and add to it as I continue my studies, but for now this is what I have planned:


A prize for every one of these completed

1. Learn first 625 words
2. Learn 1000 most common words
3. Learn entire grammar book
4. Learn entire Yiddish crash course
5. Go through entire dictionary, learning cognates and useful words


A prize for the completion of all of these

1. Learn 20 swear words
2. Learn 20 Yiddish phrases
3. Learn 20 Yiddish songs
4. Do 20 blog entries


Some with prizes, some without

1. Read 10 books about Yiddish (prize)
2. Convert cell phone to Yiddish (no prize)
3. Label objects around house (no prize)
4. Watch five Yiddish movies (no prize)
5. Play three Yiddish games (no prize)
6. Tell the time in Yiddish 100 times (prize)
7. Learn the vowel names (prize)

I have not yet really figured out how to make use of leveling up in the way games do it, which isn't surprising, as we do not level up in life the way we do in games. We don't win a certain number of points, and then divvy them up, suddenly claiming new knowledge and abilities. Yiddish is not a spell I can suddenly perform because I have earned enough experience points to buy it.

But I don't want to abandon the concept of leveling up; I'm just not sure how to apply the concept to the real world. I will continue to think about it, though, as I think it is useful to mark when you have accomplished enough to move up to another level. Perhaps it is as simple as taking the language test to determine level of fluency.

Games also mark accomplishments in another way: When you achieve certain things, you get prizes, often in the form of little medals. I have decided to give myself prizes for accomplishment, and, in fact, have already given myself one as a reward for having completed the first 625 word of Yiddish.

I ordered myself an old button that says "Dress British, Think Yiddish." As I understand it, this was a fairly popular Madison Avenue expression back in the 60s, and translated as "dress mainstream, think nonmainstream." It's also a perfect button for me, as my genetic background is from Ireland and Great Britain and I tend to dress like it, but I'm very much a product of my Jewish upbringing. More than that, thanks to this project, I genuinely am starting to think in Yiddish.