Year 2, Week 17: Discipline

 The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 454 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 288 hours
I have reviewed 5,001 individual flashcards

Through sheer force of will, I have gotten myself back on track. I suppose I'm just learning the discipline of learning a language.

Discipline is hard to acquire. I've only got a few place in my life where I am really disciplined. I'm a disciplined writer, in the sense that if I sit down in front of a blank computer screen I know that within an hour or so I will have written somewhere in the area of 600 to 1,000 words. It's a discipline I had to develop as a journalist, although I am not disciplined enough to do my writing early; I typically do it on the day it is due.

I suppose every discipline is made up of many smaller disciplines. In writing, you have to learn the discipline of writing when you don't want to write, revising when you don't want to revise, writing when you are uninspired, writing when you don't have any idea what you're going to say, and the discipline of not hating your editors, which may be the hardest discipline of all.

In learning Yiddish, there are similarly a series of disciplines, some of which I have acquired, some of which I still struggle with. There is the discipline of constantly creating new flashcards. There is the discipline of creating flashcards containing words other than Yiddish slang for sexual activities. There's the discipline of actually studying the flashcards. There's the discipline of trying to locate gaps in your study and fill them. There's the discipline of caring that there are gaps in your study since all you do with Yiddish is talk to your dog. There is the discipline of not spending all your free time playing with your dog and getting back to studying. And don't even bring up video games.

Anyway, it helped to reshuffle my schedule a little. I now wake at 6:30 or 7 a.m., so am not as exhausted to the extent I was -- it's amazing how much an extra half hour or so can help. Instead of reviewing flashcards first thing in the morning, I review them on the bus to and from work, during my lunch break, and then before I got go to bed, which seems to work about as well.

I'm back to just finding words at random in the dictionary, but when I was last doing this, I was trying to be sort of fair to my dictionary. If I opened it to the page where I had already picked a few words, I flipped around until I find a page where I have learned no words at all. That was starting to take a lot of time, so I have gone back to being loosey goosey about the whole thing.

I am also working my way through a grammar book, as I mentioned, and continue to plug in a Yiddish homily or folk expression or proverb every other day, so there is some nice variety to my studies. I may get back to plugging in text from "Say It in Yiddish," which has turned out to be the collection of the dullest sentences ever conceived. Still, they are well-constructed Yiddish sentences, and it is useful to have a lot of those memorized.

I have made one shift in how I study that I would like to mention. It's small, but I feel like it has been surprisingly effective. It used to be that if I came across a flashcard I knew, I would say the answer and then click past the card. Now, even if I know the answer, I review the card five or so times.

This seems to be helping me to cement the flashcards in my old noggin. Otherwise, once I have learned a card, they only get very brief reviews, and I quickly start forgetting them again. I guess this is another discipline of learning Yiddish: spending time with a word you think you already know.

Also, a quick note: I passed 5,000 flashcards this week, which was one of my milestones. I bought myself a whiskey to celebrate.