Year 2, Week 6: Forward

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 379 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 237 hours
I have reviewed 4,408 individual flashcards

About a year ago, I had taught myself a little more than 400 flashcards, and I wrote this: "In your first month of studying using this process, you're going to feel like you're learning a lot very quickly, which is exciting, and in your second month you're going to feel like you have no idea what to do with what you're learning, which is confusing."

I've learned 10 times as many flashcards. I just lapped myself again -- another 400 flashcards since the start of the year. Back then, I was trying to have pretend conversations with myself using a paltry vocabulary and no grammar. I was obsessed with vocabulary acquisition, charting the number of words I learned and comparing it against standard lists of new language learning (Based on that, I now have the approximate vocabulary of a 7-year-old, although I suspect the average 7-year-old is better able to make use of their vocabulary than me.)

I can now have rather detailed, if grammatically awkward, conversations with myself. Today I struggled through an article in the Yiddish Forward. They have a nice feature where you can click a word and get its translation, and I only had to do this maybe a dozen times, and it was all technical language that there has just been no reason for me to learn, plus a few basic words that, at the moment, I couldn't remember. It was slow reading, and I recall being a much faster reader when I was 7, but, then, I haven't practiced it much.

Maybe I should. It's certainly easy enough for me to access the Forward online, their stories are relatively short, and I started this project with an imagine in mind of me as a 50-year-old sitting in a deli and reading a copy of the paper. Might as well get comfortable reading it now.

It's a bit odd to go back and read the early entries, when my studies felt like a race toward fluency. That is such a minor concern of mine now, as I don't think fluency is possible without a community of Yiddish speakers to support it, and I don't know that I will ever have such a thing.

Now studying Yiddish is just the thing I do because I like it. I learned the Yiddish word for airhead a few nights ago, katzenkop, and if I am translating correctly this means "cat-head."which is delightful. I learn for pleasure now, not for usefulness.

But who knows. That could flip in a moment. Although this projects has been pretty similar from the start, consisting of me putting words and phrases on flashcards and then studying them for 45-minutes to an hour per day, the goals of the project have proven to be pure whimsy.

And thank goodness for that. If I didn't indulge my whimsy, I might lose interest. I'm just too flighty to stick to any one thing for any length of time. Somehow I seem to have tricked myself into 14 months of study, which is pretty identical from day to day, just by re-framing my goals.

Perhaps I should come up with a list of goals that I can switch to if I start to lost interest. They need not be reasonable or anything I can accomplish. They just need to keep me interested. Here's a few:

1. Be the first man to speak Yiddish on Mars
2. Get into a screaming argument with an old man, entirely in Yiddish
3. Translate the pornographic novel "Top Notch Nymph" into Yiddish
4. Have a Yiddish seance and try to reach bawdy Jewish comedienne Totie Field
5. Produce a Yiddish radio soap opera called The Rabbi Disapproves

I have a lot of work ahead of me. Forward!