Year 2, Week 7: Eight years of Hebrew
Published on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 By Max Sparber
I have studied Yiddish for 384 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 240 hours
I have reviewed 4,455 individual flashcards
I'm in sort of a groove now of just adding new words in from the dictionary. It's not especially time consuming, it's something I learn relatively quickly, it's enjoyable, and my study time is faster, generally about a half hour compared to an hour when I am teaching myself grammar and homilies and curses and whatever else catches my fancy.
I won't continue to do this exclusively for much longer, but it's nice to have a little roll going once in a while, where I feel like I'm learning something. The other stuff can take an awful long time to really settle into my noodle. There are some proverbs that I've been trying to memorize for eight months or so and, nope, not memorized, not at all.
It's all a bit easier now, though. It used to be that flashcards that had sentences written on them generally gummed up the works. I just couldn't remember them, and would have to repeat them again and again. In the meanwhile, individual words disappeared to the back of the deck as I learned them, and so I was stuck with these sentences that carried over day after day after day, growing and growing, until I'd finally take a day and just work my way through them, sometimes for hours.
That hasn't happened for a while. I seem to memorize new sentences relatively quickly, and remember old ones after perhaps a repetition or two. It took a while -- it just started to happen in the past couple of weeks, in fact, perhaps assisted by the fact that there are not that many new sentences in my deck, so I am not overwhelmed by them.
But it does feel like something has shifted in my head. It used to be that I was simply memorizing sounds. Now they seem like sentences, with recognizable structures and full of words I recognize. It's nice.
I would say, if there is one thing that frustrates me just now, it is that I don't have any of this stuff on the tip of my brain. This isn't especially surprising. Learning language is a bit of a trick, in that you must learn something in two ways. You not only need to have the words buried deep in your head, where it won't be forgotten, but also need to have it immediately available if you need it.
This is a lot easier if you make regular use of a language, especially if you use it as your vernacular. It's a lot harder if you're just studying a language for a half-hour to an hour per day. We'll see, though. An hour a day doesn't seem like much, but I studied language in college and that's about what we ended up doing there, if you count weekends and school breaks. Additionally, college classes went at the speed and addressed the needs of the average student, while my studies feel comparatively supercharged.
I wouldn't say I came out of college a skilled Hebrew speaker, but it was enough for me to have a functional understanding of the language. I studied Hebrew on and off for somewhere near eight years total. We'll see how comfortable I am with Yiddish after the same amount of time.
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