I have studied Yiddish for 93 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 43 hours
I have reviewed 1,232 individual flashcards
Correct learning: 69.84%
Correct young: 76.11%
Correct mature: 79.06%
I started this project three months ago, inspired, as I said then, by a street approach to language learning that favors an extremely blunt and direct approach to language acquisition. You memorize 1,000 of the most common words, and then you learn sentences from a grammar book to put it into context.
These approaches set a date on when you can start to expect fluency, which, in fairness, they define as a continuum. They don't claim that you'll be a native speaker, but, within a certain amount of time, you'll start to understand the language you are studying. That time period is generally about three months.
So here I am. I'm not sure that I have memorized all 1,000 of the most common words, but I've got most of them, and I'm only partway into my grammar book. But, nonetheless, I have learned enough that I should be able to start to test these claims.
The first I want to test is the claim that if you learn the top 1,000 words, you'll understand about 70 percent of what you read. I've concocted a simple test for this: I have grabbed four headline from the Yiddish Forward, and I have translated them to the best of my ability. I will type out my translation, leaving blanks for words I could not translate, and I'll mark the percentage of words I got right, along with some notes about how well I understood what I was reading.
מיכאל פֿעלזענבאַום באַדויערט, וואָס די סאָוועטישע מאַכט האָט פֿאַרשוויגן, וויפֿל פֿון די סאָוועטישע העלדן זענען געווען ייִדן
Michael Felsenbaum_____, what the _______ makes has _____, how many of the _______ ____ are given Jews.
I understand 76 percent of this sentence, sort of, by way of very literal translation. I somehow missed that sovetishe is Soviet, and that the entire sentence, more accurately translated, is as follows: Michael Felsenbaum rejects what the Soviets power had concealed, how many of the Soviet heroes were Jews.
So, I understood, but did not understand. I turned the idiom for "were" into "are given," and I also didn't know the word for "heroes," which means that I got a lot of the words but none of the meaning. Next sentence:
פֿון אונדזער אַרכיוו: זעט ווי אַזוי די ייִדישיסטן און באָבעווער חסידים האָבן געפּראַוועט פּורים אין 201187 percent translated correctly, and, although I am missing a few words, I'd say I understand this sentence pretty well. A better translation: From our archive : See how Yiddishists and Bobever Hasidim have celebrated Purim in 2011.
From our archive: __ how so the Yiddishists and Bobover Hasidim have ___ Purim in 2011.
I sort of thought the word zet might be related to seeing -- they are all ze words -- and I knew azoi wasn't going to be used as "so," but wasn't sure how it would be used. I didn't know the word for celebrate, but I assumed that's what they were going for in context. All in all, I'd say this sentence was a success.
דער ספֿרדישער הויפּט־רבֿ יצחק יוסף טענהט, אַז די גויים טאָרן ניט וווינען אין ארץ־ישׂראל. יואל מאַטוועיעוו האַלט, אַז דאָס איז אַ סימן, אַז די מיזרחים ווערן קולטורעל אַסימילירט אין דער עקסטרעמער חרידישער שיטהAbout 82 percent correct, and, I mean, close. I get that it is a conflict between factions in Israel and is about assimilation. I didn't really get the final sentence, which is better understood as saying that the Mizrachim, the Eastern Jews, can be seen as having been assimilated into the Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox. I'd say I half understood this sentence.
The Sephardic High Rabbi Yizhak Joseph ___, is the non-Jews ____ not live in Israel. Yoel Matveyev stop, when that is a ____, when the Mizrachim ____ cultural assimilation in the extreme Haredim ___.
אַ פּאָדקאַסט פֿונעם „מילקען־אַרכיוו פֿון ייִדישער מוזיק‟ פֿאָרשט אויס די השפּעה פֿון דזשעז אויף חזנותAbout 81 percent correct. A couple of key words missing, but I get that it's a podcast that has something to do with jazz and cantorial music. Of course, what I'm missing is that the podcast explores the influence of jazz on cantorial music, and this feels significant, as it's the crux of the relationship.
A podcast ____ "Milken-archive of Jewish music" ____ out the ____ from jazz of cantors.
All told, I approximately correctly translated an average of 81.5 percent of the headlines I read. This is more than I expected, and I suspect it helps that I can identify names and know Judaism well enough to know when a culturally specific word appears in a sentence.
Still, I'd say I only actually understood one of the sentences, somewhat understood two more, and missed by a country mile on one. If fluency is a continuum, I am all the way at the far end of it, and have perhaps edged a toe in.
Which is, I must say, nonetheless astonishing to me. Three months feels like a long time while you're in the middle of it, especially when you're impatient, as I am. But it feels like no time at all when you're done with it. When you have studying languages in the past, some for years, and have nothing like this level of comprehension when you read those languages, it positively feels like a magic trick.