Week 16: The Hound

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 114 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 54 hours
I have reviewed 1,534 individual flashcards
Correct learning: 68.99%
Correct young: 73.92%
Correct mature: 82.48%

We adopted a dog last week, a tiny Shiba Inu/Chihuahua mix named Burt who is three years old, has only one eye, and is morbidly obese. He's also a sweetheart, and the process of integrating him into my life made my schedule a bit cattywampus this week, resulting in something that hasn't happened since I started this project: A day where I didn't manage to study all my flashcards. I think the old ones I missed just got pushed back to the next day, but I think I also missed a few new ones for that day.

Not a big deal, I suppose, but I want to talk a little about how much time it takes me to work on Yiddish per day, because I think the various online language programs don't give a good sense of what a time commitment it is. So here is some back of the envelope math:

  • Studying the flashcards takes anywhere between 30 to 50 minutes, usually about 40 minutes
  • Creating the flashcards takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and sometimes more on weekends
  • I also listed to a Audible version of a Yiddish language program, and that takes about 20 minutes per day. I do this during my morning commute, and generally do not do it on weekends
  • I read and try to translate every Forward headline that shows up on my Facebook page, which is usually about five minutes per headline, so maybe 10 to 15 minutes per day
  • And there are occasionally other activities related to this program. I listed to recordings of Yiddish songs fairly frequently. I listen to audio recordings of Yiddish stories maybe once per week. I read about the language every so often, and that can range from half an hour to a couple of hours at a stretch. This week I watched a Yiddish movie (Hester Street, which I will write about in another entry), and that took a couple of hours.

I also talk to my dog in Yiddish when I am in the mood, which is nice, because he doesn't seem to care one way or the other what language I am speaking, but I don't feel nearly so mad as when I would try to have conversations with myself in Yiddish. Admittedly, the things I say to my dog tend to be along the "Good dog" variety, and I like to describe him in Yiddish. He's kleine, he's fetz, he has ein oig. He's also zeyer zis.

All told, my daily work on Yiddish ranges from 45 minutes to two or three hours. Even doing the bare minimum -- creating and memorizing flashcards -- would take me about an hour a day. I post the amount I have studied at the top of the page -- 54 hours just now. But that's just the time spent studying flashcards. It doubles when you include creating the flashcard, and triples when you include all the other Yiddish stuff I do.

So, at the moment, I probably have worked on Yiddish for about 162 hours. Of course, if Malcolm Gladwell is right and it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything, I am one 1/61th of the way to expertise, and I have more than 6,000 days of study left -- 16 years! -- before I will have mastered Yiddish.

Thankfully, the 10,000 hours thing is probably a myth. On top of that, most people who can communicate in a language would not be considered masters of it, so it is important to distinguish between fluency and mastery; I'm shooting for the former, not the latter. I can't guarantee that I will spend 10,000 hours over the next decade and a half on Yiddish.

After all, I need some time to play with my dog.