Monday, April 16, 2012

Back to Ulpan - Oy

Yesterday the entire country of Israel went back to school, including me.  Ulpan started back yesterday (even though "isru chag" was Shabbat, it still counts as "isru chag" somehow - um, no I don't get it either.)

We dusted off our brains, picked up our notebooks and trudged back to the classroom.  We enjoy our teachers, both of them, even though their styles are a bit different.  They are extremely serious about our learning Hebrew as deeply and quckly as posible and encourage us to study, study, study when we get home.


None of us studied over the Pesach vacation, and we all spent time with fellow English/Spanish/French speakers, so you can be sure the rust was inches deep on Sunday morning.

But no matter, we dove in full of hope and enthusisasm.  After all, we only have 3.5 months left of Ulpan so we all want to learn as much as possible. Becasue after that we will most likely retreat to our little safe havens of English/Spanish/French and try to speak as little Hebrew as possible in our daily lives for fear of sounding (say it with me now) "like idiots."

It was going OK - we were talking about what we did, the tiyulim we went on, who we were with for seder, etc.  Then our teacher decided to test us.

NO FAIR said the 10 year old within me.  Well, it wasn't a serious, official test, but she announced that she was going around the room to ask us verbs that we've learned.

We have officially, in writing, learned over 70 verbs.  We have memorized probably 3.  I mean, those of us who don't go home and study at night.  I mean after al we are Kitah Gimel (Level 3) so some of these words we know already, but some are just pure craziness.  There are some words with similar sounds like l'hofiya and l'hafriya - I mean really, isn't that silly?

And some words have so many tofs and vovs in them you can't even prounounce them.

And some you don't need - I mean instead of having to memorize the one word "to disturb" I could just as easily say, in about 10 words, "to do something or make a noise and make you stop what you are doing," right?  I mean, we CAN work around the darn vocabulary, can't we?

So the teacher announced that she was going around the room to ask us verbs.  All of a sudden you hear the unmistakable crinkle crinkle click click of notebooks being opened, pages being turned and 12 students looking in panic for their verb lists.

We whip out our verb lists and think, "OK, she's on person #2, by the time she gets to me, SURELY I'll have all of these verbs memorized, no problem!"


Many of us did not know our words.  Then we got a bit of a lecture about studying.  We all looked appropriately sheepish.

Then she did about an hour on something which she introduced as "not really important" and that "you won't ever really use" but "you should know it."

Now I don't blame her, she probably has a curriculum and has to stick to it.  But seriously, telling us it is something we won't use?  Do you think that's going to make us listen harder?  That's precisely when I can actually hear clicking noises coming from people's brains as the "off" switch is hit.

So today I got up my courage and asked if we could have a couple of sessions on words we really need in our daily life - for shopping, the bank, the various government offices we have to deal with, etc.

I got a look of utter stupefication.  "Really?  That's what we teach in Kitah Aleph.  You want to know that?  Well, OK, if that's what you want, we will teach it to you but really it is what we teach in Kitah Aleph."

Excuse me, Ulpan Directorate, but all immigrants need help like that.  What, because my Hebrew is better I'm supposed to know the words for "free checking" and "please can you fix my window and can you come now becasue the rain is pouring in?"

It seems that she and our other teacher are going to "discuss' the "possibility" of teaching us these below-level lessons and see if they can fit it in.

In other news, I went today looking for a carwsh.  Cars here don't just get dirty, they get disgusting.  The thick dust and lack of moisture in the desert air makes for a very ugly car.  Also, very often there is some kind of "dirt rain" that comes down sometimes that is literally globs of dust mised with water.

So I went to the big Modiin mall looking for the carwash which I heard was in their parking lot.  I found it.  I drove by, I asked the guy in very broken Hebrew if I could get a car wash and he mumbled something about "shaatayim."  Now that either meant I couldn't get it washed for two hours, I could leave it and come back in 2 hours, or I could wait 2 hours to get in line and THEN wait 2 hours for the cleaning.  Never mind, I drove away.

Then I drove to another carwash and the line was going around the block, so forget that.

I'm sure you're all anxious to hear whether I find an available carwash, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, I gotta go study my verbs......

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