Year 2, Week 2: The winter hat
Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 By Max Sparber
I have studied Yiddish for 352 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 217 hours
I have reviewed 4,103 individual flashcards
It's a Minnesota winter, which is the worst there is outside of the Antarctic and other desolate places where only hair grass and pearlwort grow. Seriously, it is 5 degrees Fahrenheit in Minneapolis just now. In Novosibirsk, Siberia, which old war movies used to use as their representation of a frozen hellscape, it is 11 degrees Fahrenheit. And this is a relatively balmy January day in Minneapolis. It has gotten warm enough to snow.
That's right. When it falls below zero, it is typically too cold for it to snow. That's something you know as a Minnesotan.
I've been wearing a big fut hat that I like. It looks a little like a streimel and a lot like a spodik, the fur hats worn by Hasids, although it is blonde colored and I think was intended to be worn by women. No matter, it is the warmest thing I have ever owned. The fact that it makes me look like a Polish good luck statue of a Jew carved by someone who has never actually seen a Jew is just icing on the cake.
I threw a little party for myself last week on the one-year anniversary of my starting this project, but it was so cold that only myself and my girlfriend Coco attended. No matter; we met at a British pub and I drank both Red Breast whisky and Old Speckled Hen beer, which are my favorites. So I have been dressing Yiddish and drinking British.
I have started working my way through a Yiddish grammar book, specifically Dovid Katz's Grammar of the Yiddish Language, which he has kindly made available online as a PDF. It's been very helpful.
One of the early book I used in this project was of the opinion that we have a grammar center in our brain that intuitively understands how languages are structured. One need merely write down and memorize a few samples of each use of grammar and that will, for the most part, do it.
If that's true, that grammar center is broken in my brain. I did this, using Katz's book, and it is one of those things I was never able to remember.
In Yiddish, the word "the" changes a lot depending on context. It changes based on the gender of the subject of the sentence, it changes if the subject is singular or plural, and it changes based on the type of sentence. Each have their own specific rules, and they are not intuitive. And while it is bit frustrating to have to stop for a moment and say "was that a dative sentence," it's better than not knowing at all.
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