Week 14: A Change of Name

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 100 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 47 hours
I have reviewed 1,334 individual flashcards
Correct learning: 69.74%
Correct young: 75.37%
Correct mature: 79.54%  

I've changed the name of my blog to Dress British Think Yiddish, for no reason, I suppose, than I prefer it. I still continue to learn Yiddish on my cell phone, so the former name of the blog, Cell Phone Yiddish, still works, but as I expand beyond simply writing about learning the language to writing about additional aspects of Yiddish, it doesn't seem broad enough.

I have started adding longer phrases into my studies, although not the sort of thing I am likely to use every day, as they are mostly curses. I have both "You should meet a fire" and "you should die an unusual death" added into my flashcards, because you're not always in the mood to tell someone to burn to death but not in a mood to be more precise about how they should die. But I need to get some phrases into my head, and I figure it will help if they are things I want to remember.

But otherwise, my program continues much the same. Let me precise about the flashcards I am building just now, and their sources:

1. I have a list of the 1,000 most common Yiddish words, which stretches to about 27 pages on the PDF I have on my iPod. I have completed 8 of the pages, so roughly a third. I add in a new page every few days, and I often have learned quite a few of the words on the list already, so each page gives me somewhere between 15 and 30 new words.

2. I have an old Berlitz phrasebook that has been rerelased as an audio book through audible, and I work on one chapter of it every week or two. There are 57 pages in the accompanying PDF, and I have completed 23 of these. This is the sort of brutal, functional, everyday Yiddish you typically learn in classes: How to order food at a restaurant, how to talk about the weather, etc.

3. I purchased a English/Yiddish dictionary, and have been going through it page by page. I do three things: First, I cross off words I already know, and make sure that the gender of the word is right on my flashcards (it often isn't, thanks to the fact that Google translate thinks about 90 percent of Yiddish words are feminine.) Then I add in any cognates or near cognates, since those are words that are relatively easy for me to learn. Finally, I add in any words that I think is interesting or useful. A page of the dictionary will generally add about 15 words. I am up to the letter E just now.

4. I have a selection of books with titles like "Dirty Yiddish" and "A Dictionary of Slang and Idioms," and I add in a handful of words any time I start feeling like my language learning has become a little too stolid. As a result of this, I have discovered that I am already capable of forming shockingly filthy and mean-spirited Yiddish phrases, which was all I really wanted to do anyway.

Some things I was doing but have put on the backburner:

1. Translating Yiddish poems and songs: The language of poetry and song is just too idiosyncratic for the level of language I am at. Neither are written conversationally, and so they can be hard to translate, and, further, a phrase that works as a song lyric might sound quite odd when spoken as part of a sentence.

2. Seeking out someone I can engage in conversational Yiddish with: I've realized this is not a priority for me just now, and, besides, I don't feel like I have a good enough grasp on how to make a sentence or a quick enough ability to grab words from my memory for this yet. This is a split from the sort of street language programs that inspired this blog, which really encourage people to engage in conversation with their language as soon as possible. But there are a lot of ways to engage language besides conversation, and, at the moment, the ways I am doing it are enough. At some point in the future I will likely want to level up my conversational abilities, but I think at that point I will enroll in an immersion program.

3. Work from a grammar book: I'll get back to it, but I have noticed that the grammar book approach is just not the useful for me now. And I think it is for this reason: Grammar books give 10 phrases that are almost identical, but for subtle changes:

I am looking at the student
I am looking at the female student
I am looking at the students
I am looking at the female students
I am looking at a student
I am looking at a female student

Etc. And the fact is, I find this simply impossible to remember in flashcard form. I can remember if it's dem students, di studentkes, or what. Because my brain has memorized the basic phrase but not the variations. And I think I need more sentences, and sentences that aren't so general, for the grammar machine in my brain to kick in. I will think about this a little more and get back to it.