Week 40: On the Road with Yiddish
Published on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 By Max Sparber
I have studied Yiddish for 270 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 159 hours
I have reviewed 3,223 individual flashcards
I have been on the road a little in the past few months, and may be again for the next few -- mostly traveling back to my home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's a six-plus-hour drive, mostly spent listening to country music, chatting with my girlfriend, and occasionally checking in on our dog in the back seat to see if he is okay. Which he always is. He loves to travel.
But it's hell on my studying. Being on the road, and visiting family, and visiting Minneapolis, can be awfully distracting, and I can't be sure when I will be where and why. When I used to study at night, before I went to bed, I found it impossible to get home in time to study, or I would be too tired. Now that I study in the morning when I wake up, it's a little easier, but there are two parts to studying from flashcards, and the second part is actually creating the flashcards. I found it hard to find the time for that, and so didn't.
I suppose it would not be so bad if I couldn't add new words for a little while and so was forced to review the words I have already added, but I prefer to continue my learning unabated. The only thing I can do is try to take extra time in advance to get ahead on adding new flash cards, which is what I did on the last trip.
I'll note something that makes this especially time consuming. I have gotten to the point when I learn new words relatively quickly, but must revisit new sentences over and over again. My flashcard program, Anki, pushes stuff I have learned to the back, so I need review it less, and pushes stuff I am struggling with to the front, so I must review it more often.
This means that a lot of my current reviews consist of Yiddish proverbs, blessings, curses, and sentences drawn from phrase books. And some of these sentences are very hard to memorize -- I feel like I am learning them anew every single time I see them. This isn't so bad when there are only a few of these phrases per review session, as I can pick them up with a half-dozen repeats. But that's not what's happening. Because there are so many phrases I have a hard time remembering, they tend to dominate my review sessions, and so I must revisit them again and again and again per review session to learn them, because it is so much information I am trying to memorize all at once. I had a review session take me an hour and a half the other day because there were so many phrases, when they usually take me a half-hour.
I suppose the cure for this is to not add so many phrases into my deck. I mean, I added 150 proverbs or thereabouts, perhaps 200 individual phrases, and now a dozen or so curses. That's maybe one out of seven of my flashcards, so of course they were going to start to back up.
We'll see, though. If I keep having days where I must spend an hour studying, I'll pare back. But for the moment, I am seeing real progress on the sentences. There was a while where I felt like I just wasn't learning the sentences at all, because every time they would recur in my studies, I couldn't remember them at all. But now some are old enough that I have seen the reappear five or six times, and I ca feel them growing familiar. Some of the older ones I remember outright, some I must reread once or twice, and a few I struggle with, but it's clear to me that this just requires patience, which is the one lesson life keeps trying to force me to learn and the one lesson I dislike the most.
I am not a patient man.
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