August 11, 2013 | Yiddish

Speed of Reading (Definitely Not Speed Reading)

In Yiddish I am slow.

I continue to enjoy reading Yiddish words and sentences in my Basic Yiddish grammar, which I have now nearly completed, but I also continue to marvel at how much like a grade-school kid I feel when I am doing it. 

In other words: I am soooooooo sloooow. Except actually, I wasn’t really a slow reader in grade school. So I guess I am more like a pre-schooler.

This Takes Me Forever

This Takes Me Forever

I am still reading Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky, the saver/saviour of Yiddish books for posterity and the founder of the Yiddish Book Center. He has read a ton of Yiddish and studied it in graduate school at McGill in the late 1970s.

Something he wrote comforted me tremendously with respect to my sluggish pace. About his own Yiddish studies, he said, “…we were often assigned two full-length novels a week. I still read relatively slowly in Yiddish, with frequent recourse to a dictionary, and my first year of graduate school found me at my desk till two or three in the morning every night but Shabbos.”

Phew. If Aaron Lansky is still slow(ish), then I feel better. It ain’t easy to read unfamiliar letters backwards.

Oops, now that I have typed in and proofread the above quotation, I have just realized that his “read” was probably past tense, not present. I assumed it was present.

Rats. English is so annoying sometimes! The present tense, past tense, and past participle of “to read” are: “read,” “read,” and more “read.” Can we not be a little more innovative, people?

Central Park Turtles

Central Park Turtles

Okay, so I can no longer take comfort in Aaron Lansky’s current reading speed. But at least I know for sure he was slow in graduate school! 

By the way, did you see the exercise pictured above, from Basic Yiddish? Reading the questions, then writing my answers, then reading the answers in the back of the book (in print) and comparing them with my answers (in cursive)—all incredibly time-consuming.

But if I know that other people in this world are slow, too, then I mind much less.

Turtle power.

Comments (4)

Benjamin • Posted on Mon, August 26, 2013 - 8:18 am EST

Hey! If it can make you feel better, I am also terribly slow when I read Korean. It’s all like grade school all over again indeed :D. The fun thing is when i was in Korea, they actually wanted me to teach kids how to read. The contrary happened :D.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, August 26, 2013 - 12:32 pm EST

Benjamin, ha, yes, that does make me feel better! Thank you for the consoling e-mail. ;) How funny about the teaching. Having to teach something is the fastest way to learn it yourself!

fokker • Posted on Wed, September 04, 2013 - 2:25 am EST

Are you still learning Yiddish or has the project ended?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sat, January 10, 2015 - 3:35 am EST

The Yiddish piece ended in 2013. but I hope to revisit it at some point if I can!

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