Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ulpan Takes a Turn to the Serious

Last week, our Ulpan teacher informed us that for whatever reason our Ulpan class would start to meet five days per week instead of two days per week.

Hmmm. how did we feel about this?  On the one hand, you'd surely learn faster the more days you attend, but on the other hand, it was kind of nice not having to get up and go out every morning.  Nevertheless we all smiled and agreed that bottom line was that we wanted to learn Hebrew faster, and five days of doing that is better than two.

So today three things happened:
1. We got a new Ulpan teacher who had a decidedly different tone the teacher we were used to.
2. We were told that our new teacher would not be our ONLY new teacher - others will be teaching us as well.
3. We moved to a new classroom - in the miklat (shelter) of the building.
4. We were told that - oops- they MEANT to say that Ulpan will be FOUR days until Pesach, and maybe five days afterwards.

Like any teaching situation, teachers have their own "tone."  We quickly learned that our new teacher was a kind of no-nonsense person as she laid out her rules:

1. Come on time
2. Always do your homework
3. No cellphones on during class
4. You may not bring your child to class - ever.

Now our first teacher had never laid down any rules at all, and when people came late to class you could tell she wasn't happy but she never said anything about it.  But OK, we could handle this.

New Ulpan Teacher also told us in her own way that she did not teach dikduk like our former teacher.  She wanted to teach us in an organized, piece by piece manner so that the binyanim (tenses) made sense to us.  This was a little disconcerting since we had gotten into a nice rhythm with our first teacher and now everything was changing.  Considering the fact that we'd all left our home countries not long ago and were getting used to absolutely everythying in our lives changing all at once, it had been nice to get into a routine with a teacher.  Now we had a new teacher with a completely different style.  But come on, we're not children, we'll be fine. Right?

The weirder part was having our class in the shelter.  This room was damp and cold, being in the basement of the building and it having been an especially rainy few weeks.  You heard water dripping but didn't know where it was coming from, there were all kinds of knobs and dials everywhere that looked scary, and there was no direct light from the outside.  Totally creepy. You not only could not physically warm up the entire four hours, but you felt this eerie chill as well, knowing that this room may be used one day to keep a lot of children safe from some kind of attack.

Anyway, our new teacher is definitely serious - the whole session felt different, a little less happy than our previous sessions.  But we shall perservere - after all we are there to learn as quickly as possible so that we don't sound too much like idiots.

And here's an interesting thing that our Ulpan teacher told us today - apparently we religious people use two names when we name our children because the longer the name the more "power" it has.  I had never heard that and wondered if it was an utter misconception of Israeli culture. 

She also said that more traditional religious Israelis look down upon the short Israeli names like "Ziv" and "Nir" because a short name is less powerful.

One thing I taught HER was about "coffee names."  That is, if you have a hard to pronounce (for an Israeli) name like "Bernard" for example (not that I know anyone by that name), when you order your coffee you might run into trouble because the cashier can't pronounce it or gives you a weird look.  So you adopt a "coffee name" which is more comfortable for the Israelis - like "Ziv" or "Tal."  Others in the class knew about this phenomenon, but the teacher was blown away.

In pre-Purim news, it is great fun seeing all of the signage everywhere about Purim - those banners that they hang in the medians of the bigger roads wishing you a good Purim and telling you to shop here or there for your Purim needs.

And I know this is not news, but having the cashier at the supermarket wish you a chag sameach is very cool.


  1. Good luck with ulpan, switching teachers is definitely challenging. We had a few substitutes also during my course and we didn't like it at all.
    I LOVE how everyone wishes you a Purim Sameach. So fun!

  2. In the old country if you have a difficult name, possibly with a "ch", then you may have a "bar name" and a "coffee name"