Week 9: ESL and language acquisition

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 65 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 27 hours
I have reviewed 846 individual flashcards

It's the grind all right. I continue to add to my Yiddish without gaining any appreciable understanding of the language. I suppose, like everything else worth doing, language acquisition is a discipline, and the discipline is that you continue to do it when the benefits aren't obvious.

There are stages of language acquisition. ESL teachers divide it up into four stages, as summarized by me below with the amount of time they average it takes.

1. Pre-production: (Six months) This is when you have so little language as to not be able to communicate in it as all, although you might have as many as 500 passive words that you understand. Thankfully, I am passed this stage.

2. Early production: (six months to one year) This involves an active vocabulary of about 1,000 words, and learners can speak short, one- or two-sentence phrases. They also have memorized chunks of language for everyday use. This is very much where I am now.

3. Speech emergence: (one to three years) This involves a vocabulary of about 3,000 words, and learners can communicate short stories, ask simple questions, engage in short conversations, and follow easy-to-read stories. I feel like I am close to reaching this point.

4. Intermediate fluency: (three to five years) This involves a vocabulary of about 6,000 words, and learners are able to construct more complex sentences, including expressing opinions. They can ask clarifying questions.

5. Advanced fluency: (five to seven years) Students at this stage are at near-native levels of fluency.

In the next few weeks, I'll have acquired about 1,000 words, which means I can expect to have a vocabulary of between 4,000 and 5,000 words by the end of my first year.

If I were in an ASL class, I would barely be in the pre-production stage, and would have four more months, on average, before I reached speech emergence. But I am certainly well past that point -- I have a detailed argument with myself about what accent I should be using the other day, and the argument was entirely in Yiddish, albeit almost certainly in broken Yiddish.

Nonetheless, this means I am well into the early production stage, and starting to tip toward the speech emergence stage, none of which is expected for another four months to a year. So, credit to this approach to learning language -- it does work quite quickly, even if it feels like it is crawling just now.

Of course, I can't actually know how well I am learning the language until I test it in actual communication. Once I reach a thousand words, I think I shall have to start seeking some sort of mechanism of communication. There are online sites designed specifically for this, such as conversation exchange, but I'm not finding much by way of Yiddish on these sites. I'll start looking into it in earnest this week.