}

Yeah. My Hebrew Sucks.

I have a confession to make. I am a member of something both so common that there are whole Israeli towns devoted to it and yet so embarrassing, every time I find myself exposed as such in public, I blush.

What is this onerous malady I bear? Only that I am yet another grand example of the very thing we were told to avoid at all costs: I am one of those Americans, living in Israel.

My official Aliyah took place over 2 years ago (Baruch Hashem, Baruch Hashem, Mamish Gevalt, Psssshhh) and I still struggle my way through a menu “English please!” (באנגלית בבקשה!) and somehow I still mess up asking the simple, albeit effective: ”Is it possible to speak in English” to my bank tellers, phone plan reps, and doctor’s receptionists.

Those of you who are similarly situated may not admit it to yourselves, but you could have this disorder too. Symptoms can be glimpsed when in conversation with the rare Israeli who finds patience enough to speak with you (Miracles in the Holy Land! Baruch Hashem, Baruch Hashem, Mamish Gevalt, Psssshhh). They just repeated their last sentence at the behest of your blank face. You precede to pause, for what seems like enough time for Israel to go from rat infested swamp land to cat infested cornucopia. Watch out! These pauses can induce said Israeli to revert into English (that could be the Queen’s compared to your own sapling of a second language) and after that its not long before you are more interested in making a friend than testing their patience with “holechet, no halachiti. No hechlatiti. Oh forget it hows the chummus?”

I am in effect a Hebrican: I want to be a player in Israeli society (and Lord knows I enjoy doing the accent) but I’m stuck in English. I also hold all of the most common reasons: “Hey, I went to Ulpan, but…”: All of my friends are Anglo! I work with Anglos! I learn with Anglos! My community in Jerusalem is Anglo! My Shul is full of Anglos! And everyone in Israel speaks Anglo!**

Luckily, Jewlicious has taken pity on me and suggested I try a new Hebrew learning program called Bereshit from learnhebrewtoday.com. (Bereshit translates to “In the beginning” so I know I have the support of Froylein Maria…and God). The online program produces a bi-weekly newspaper (they can snail mail it to you too!) on Israel’s current events in simple dimple Hebrew so that Hebricans like myself might actually read about Israeli affairs while lessening the language gap. So here it goes, Bereshit, I’m hereby placing my Aliyah success into your hands…J/K! About 5 Nefesh B Nefesh officials almost emergency interventioned me). In posts to follow I hope to share my triumphs and tribulations with the Holy Tongue.

xx

Shosh

**for those of you who don’t know what an “Anglo” is, as I didn’t before it became a part of my Hebrican vocab, I provide it’s dictionary.com definition for your convenience: “an English-speaking person in a place where English is not the language of the majority.” And yes, I live in Nachlaot. How did you guess??

22 Comments

  1. Lori

    1/31/2011 at 5:03 pm

    When I was in Israel, I heard a lot of Americans bashing themselves, or Americans in Israel at large. The self-loathing was, very American. Israelis don’t hate themselves, or their own accents.

    Yeah, you should probably make an effort to hang out with more Israelis, and speak the language. But ultimately, English is one of the official languages of Israel, so to my view, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in speaking it.

    • shoshi

      1/31/2011 at 5:11 pm

      Hey Lori, interesting about the self bashing being “american” – yet another American thing that I’m aching to shake:)

      And I’m not ashamed of speaking English, to the contrary. Just of speaking ONLY English in a foreign country after 2 + years.

      Here’s to third chances

    • Natan Gesher

      2/1/2011 at 4:53 am

      English is not an official language of Israel.

      • Baruch

        2/1/2011 at 5:12 am

        Yes – English is an official language of Israel. The signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English…not even Russian.

        Moreover, English is widely considered the international (spoken) language.

  2. matthew

    1/31/2011 at 5:52 pm

    7 years and i’m still in the anglo bubble. i even did a grad degree in Hebrew. It helped for a bit while i focused and got up to speed. Then I realized most of my profs were pretty lame and couldn’t get real teaching jobs at American universities. I’ve finally come to accept that without traveling in India, Thailand, or Brazil, I’m not likely to meet many Israelis who are genuinely open to making lasting friendships.

    • themiddle

      1/31/2011 at 7:08 pm

      “most of my profs were pretty lame and couldn’t get real teaching jobs at American universities”

      Where did you study that you received this impression?

  3. Menachem Lipkin

    2/1/2011 at 5:48 am

    6 1/2 years and I’m in the same boat. I butcher the language so badly that the most common response I get on the rare occasions that I do try to speak in Hebrew is “מה אתה אומר”?

    While I’m sure the link you provided is very nice, reading Hebrew, even listening, does nothing to help one speak.

  4. froylein

    2/1/2011 at 12:25 pm

    I’m not quite sure I get the “Froylein Maria”-line..

  5. Abu Zib

    2/1/2011 at 10:01 pm

    What’s so hard about learning a language? I consider myself as very lazy person and not particular intelligent. And even I learned to handle 3 languages properly on a professional level and on an every day base. I think your Ulpan just sucked.
    يالا גברת

    • froylein

      2/2/2011 at 10:49 am

      There are seven mistakes in the above comment.

  6. Michael

    2/2/2011 at 2:43 am

    Shosh,

    Maybe you can learn Hebrew in America. It could happen. Study Chinese in Israel. That will be five cents, please.

  7. Beri

    2/2/2011 at 3:01 am

    Listen, it’s hard to be a college-educated, intelligent person, and sound like a 3-year-old when you speak. That’s how I felt my first few years in Israel. Also, I noticed that when I asked Israelis to repeat what they just said, they spoke louder, like I was deaf or something. Not fun. I actually saw that Bereshit newspaper a few months ago. It’s nice. The articles are short, so you get through one pretty quickly and feel you’ve actually done something. Also great pictures. You can kvetch all you want — I will say that learning to speak Hebrew is one of my biggest accomplishments. Go for it.

  8. Yehudit Menucha

    2/2/2011 at 3:19 am

    LOVE IT Shosh, yeshar koach in having a sense of humor in life. I sense an undertone of hopeful determination. One day you will look back, read this, and laugh some more (except you will be laughing in Hebrew this time). I look forward to reading your pieces on the blog.

  9. A Weil

    2/2/2011 at 12:06 pm

    Hopeful determination! Yes those are the “much needed” inspirational tone of this blog! A blog that is able to express our struggles with Hebrew so fluently. Definitely looking forward to more post …this could create a sort of support group for those of us who plan to continue learning Hebrew despite the struggles for the rest of our lives. What better place to engage than with the fun, avant-garde and verbose Jewlicious crowd!
    Thanks , Shosh !!!

  10. David

    2/3/2011 at 11:04 am

    Shosh, You are in good hands… I used the Bereshit easy Hebrew newapaper and it turns out to be the most efficient tool I tried. They also have an Audio disc that reads the article. Now I am reading “Yanshuf” the 2nd level easy Hebrew newspaper they have.

    Anyway I think that to many of the Hebricans in Israel are more Americans than anything else.

    Good luck

    בהצלחה

  11. Pingback: Yeah. My Hebrew Sucks. | alanceleb

  12. Mark

    9/18/2011 at 12:37 pm

    Learning Hebrew in Israel is more difficult than one would imagine. Most Israelis have some understanding of English and many are very eager to practice, even if your insistent on speaking Hebrew. When you’re learning Hebrew it can be a test of will to see who will win out. Best of luck.

  13. George

    11/3/2011 at 8:10 am

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