Year 2, Week 9: The road map

The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 397 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 248 hours
I have reviewed 4,570 individual flashcards

I wish I could remember studying Hebrew better, because I find myself curious as to how much Yiddish I know after 14 months compared to how much Hebrew I knew after the same amount of time. I feel like a know more. A lot more. But maybe not, as I worked pretty hard at Hebrew and feel like I absorbed it pretty well.

It's almost all gone now, nebekh. I'm unhappy to have learned something and forgotten it, and I am unhappy because I still occasionally need something to compare myself against, just to see how I am doing.

It's not like it used to be, when I started this project and obsessed about metrics. I've somewhat given up on the idea of fluency, and even of the importance of fluency, in favor of a philosophy of indulgence, where I study whatever Yiddish appeals to me and I find useful or enjoyable in my own life.

But there still is a little bit of my brain that thinks, what if? What if this weird, self-directed, cocooned study program I have invented for myself actually is leading to fluency, of a sort. After all, what is language but knowing a lot of words and how to assemble them, and that's exactly what I am studying.

I've been operating under this weird little theory, unproven and based on nothing but a hunch. But my feeling is that if you can convince 1000 Jews to learn 10 words of Yiddish, 100 of them will go on to learn 100 words. And 10 of those will go on to learn 1000 words. And one will go on to learn 10,000 words, which is about active vocabulary of an educated native speaker.

I base this on something completely unrelated to language, and something that is more a rule of thumb than anything that has data behind it. I used to work with a lot of salespeople, and they made a lot of cold calls, which is a frustrating undertaking. They would comfort themselves by telling themselves that it took 10 cold calls to find one person who was interested, and it took 10 interested people to make one sale.

So I have always proceeded with my life under the assumption that there would be 10 disinterested people for every one vaguely interested person, and 10 vaguely interested people for every one person who commits.

This theory might be appealing to me because I am such a flibbertigibbet. I have a need for novelty, so I constantly try new things, do them for as long as I am amused, and then dump them. It's why this blog has so many little projects on it, so that I can move from one to another when my interest wanes. If I try 100 things, there is probably 10 I will do for any length of time, and one I will do regularly.

Yiddish I do regularly. I'm the 1 in 100 in my equation. I don't know why I am doing it, except that I like it, and I don't know where it is headed, except to a collection of 10,000 flashcards in the next year and a half.

It's like I'm inventing a road map to an uncertain destination based on unrelated folk wisdom. But, then, since I have no real destination in mind, this road map works just fine.