Week 36: 100th Post

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 242 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 139 hours
I have reviewed 2,916 individual flashcards

Today is a double anniversary, of sorts, or, at least, a doubling of accomplishments. With this post, I have now written 100 blog posts, which I actually get to give myself a merit badge for, hooray! (For those new to the blog, I decided to mark my progress in Yiddish the way Boy Scouts do, by sewing merit badges onto a sash.)

I have also been studying Yiddish for nine months, or, rather, probably more than nine months, since I started this blog two weeks after I started studying, promptly forgot, and so have never been right when I have counted weeks, which is so me I can barely stand it.

Nonetheless, sometime recently I finished my first nine months of almost-daily study, almost learning 15 new words or phrases per day. I don't know that I have ever committed this sort of time or effort to a project, and there is no real end in sight. As long as I can come up with new projects for myself, I will keep plugging away, and I always seem to be able to come up with new projects.

As an example, I have just about finished learning 150 Yiddish proverbs, the amount I set as a goal for myself several months ago, and something I already have a merit badge prepared for. In preparation, I have ordered a book of Yiddish curses, and will teach myself an as-yet undetermined number.

Nine months may be a little too early to do any sort of retrospective, but I always feel like anniversaries are an opportunity for reflection, and, in your first year of doing anything, semi-anniversaries are important. I have almost had my dog for six months, and, when we reach that moment, you had better believe I am going to throw a party.

So, nine months in, what can I say? While I am far from fluent in Yiddish, I increasingly feel like a have a solid grasp on the language's essentials. I just tried to work my way through an article on the Yiddish Forward page, and while I struggled with quite a few specific words, nonetheless I was able to get the gist of the entire article, rather than just the headline (which I understood perfectly), which is considerable more than my last experiment in reading the paper six months ago, when I was able to struggle my way through just headlines and even then failed to understand essential words.

But the question of fluency has become the least interesting one to me, because, in the past nine months, I have realized that there is value to learning Yiddish besides hypothetically being able to have a conversation in the language sometime in the future, or the likelihood that I will be able to understand Yiddish well enough to be able to read books written in the language, although that is appealing. I have gotten very interested in the ways Yiddish might have value for people who don't, or won't, or will not have the opportunity to use it as a vernacular language.

I guess I am a test case for this. I will probably write a longer post about this down the road, but my studying Yiddish led the this blog, and this blog has led to me exploring a variety of ways I can be Jewish. Because I am a secular Jew, and it is not like there is any organization dedicated to the experience of secular Judaism, I have spent much of my adulthood being Jewish but not doing Jewish, if you understand what I am saying. I self-identified as a Jew, and feel like my worldview and ethics have been profoundly shaped by my Jewishness.

But being Jewish is not just a matter of feeling Jewish or believing Jewish things. Culture is something you participate in by doing stuff -- it is something you perform, and I wasn't performing being Jewish in any specific way.

This project has provided me with an abundance of ways to perform being Jewish in a secular way, and that is something I will continue to explore. Nine months in, I find I'm not just thinking Yiddish, I am being Yiddish, and that's what I was looking for, I think.