Week 48: The Race

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 318 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 193 hours
I have reviewed 3,708 individual flashcards

Today is December 6, and the anniversary of me starting the project, according to my calendar, is January 6. As a result, I feel like a I have started a bit of a race against the clock, as there are two projects I want to have finished by the end of my first year, as I mentioned in a previous entry. To reiterate, they are the following:

1. I wish to complete an audio class in Yiddish that I have been working on for most of the year
2. I wish to complete a dictionary project

I don't know that I have been explicit about the dictionary project. It's not terribly complex: I have a sort-of beginners dictionary of Yiddish, and I go through it, page by page, usually at about the rate of a page a day. I cross off any word I already have in my flashcards, and generally check to see that the gender is correct on the flashcard (it often isn't; Google translate proved to be entirely undependable regarding genders.)

I then add new words to my flashcards. If a word is a cognate or near-cognate with English, it automatically goes in, no matter how rare or strange a word. If the word builds upon a word I already know, it goes in. And if a word seems especially interesting or unusual, it goes in.

This generally represents between 75 and 95 percent of the words on each page, and I also go back and add a few words from earlier in the dictionary every day. My goal is to have done this with every page in the dictionary, and I suspect this won't be too hard to achieve, as I only have about six pages left in the book. I should be done by next week, and will spend the remaining three weeks just going back and adding words.

I already know what I will replace this project with when I am done, and it is a much larger dictionary, and an even more complicated iteration of this project. The dictionary is the enormous Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary, released just this past year -- in fact, it is so new that the official release party for the book was three weeks ago.

The dictionary is intentionally enormous, comprising 856 pages and including Yiddish words for email and transgender. So this will give me a massive collection of words to learn -- my current dictionary has a paltry 8.500 words, while the Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary has 50,000. But, more than that, it will provide something currently lacking on my flashcards -- plurals. 

Yiddish has a superabundance of ways to make a word plural, which I presume is a legacy of the language's obsessive borrowing from other languages. So there are, of course, Hebrew plurals, which involve sticking os and im at the end of a word. Yiddish will often enough make something plural in the same way English often does, by sticking the letter s at the end, but will sometimes stick an n at the end of the word instead, and with surprising frequency will not stick anything at the end of the word. The Yiddish word for window, fentster, has no plural form. I suppose you just need to know if it is singular or plural from context. And sometimes Yiddish makes something plural by changing the vowels inside the word, the way we change mouse into mice.

Perhaps a linguist might be able to make an educated guess as to which one of these approaches is most likely with a specific word, but I am not a linguist, and so need a reference source to tell me. I have just ordered the book -- just now, while I was writing about it -- and it is due by the end of the month. 

So this will be the first new project in my second year of Yiddish. I have been thinking a lot about what year two will look like, and will detail that more in later posts.