Week 15: 20 Words for Idiot

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 108 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 51 hours
I have reviewed 1,465 individual flashcards
Correct learning: 69.36%
Correct young: 74.59%
Correct mature: 81.02%

I was having a bit of a panic last week. I don't know -- I just felt like maybe I was starting to develop too much of a backlog of sort-of-known words, they weren't showing up often enough, and so I wasn't really learning them.

I'm not sure what caused this. Perhaps it is the fact that there is a slow but constant decline in my stats for "correct learning" and "correct young," and, at some point in my life, I guess I became a grade grubber. I mean, for words I have already learned, if you look above, I am at about 75 percent correct, and that's a solid C, while for mature words that I have studied for a long time, I am at 81 percent, which makes me just barely a B student, were I being graded.

And I'm not a C or a B student, damn it. I'm an A student. And so I started to think that maybe I should reign in the introduction of new words until I was really comfortable with the words I am now learning. But I started to research the flashcard program I am using, Anki, and nobody seemed to think that it is possible to get overwhelmed, and some felt that I could actually add a lot more information without it being too much of a problem. "I had to learn to trust the program," one blogger wrote, or something like that. I am paraphrasing.

So I decided just to trust the program. After all, I do have a goal, and that is to familiarize myself with 3,000 words by the end of the year, or the words used in about 95 percent of written Yiddish, which is, I am given to understand, the amount you need to be able to suss out the meaning of unknown words in a sentence from context.

I am at nearly half that number of flashcards in just over 100 days, although that includes a number of sentences and several hundred words of slang, including perhaps 20 variations of the word "idiot." Just as the Eskimos are supposed to have 50 words for snow (an untruth, as I understand it), Jews seem to have a need for an endless number of words for morons and fools. As it happens, so do I.

Perhaps when I get to 3,000 words, I will want to take time to really dig in with the flashcards I already have, and will add fewer new words. But I suspect not -- the next goal is 6,000 words, which is the amount that is defined as "intermediate fluency" in ASL courses, and I'm not going to get there any time soon if I stop adding new words. I think what is happening is that I need to develop some new tricks for learning words that I have trouble with.

Also, my score has taken a bit of a hit because I have had to correct the gender of many of my cards, and so now, while I know the meaning of a card perfectly well, I sometimes get the gender wrong. This should be self-correcting soon enough, but presently is irritating, and makes me feel like any one of 20 words for idiot.