Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hebrew Update / Coping Mechanisms

So Ulpan is long in the past, and I think my Hebrew skills are a little stagnant.  I mean, I work in English, and I don't have that much to do with Israelis who only know Hebrew.  Also, I don't watch Israeli TV (we gave up cable - too expensive).

So, now I rely on my grandchildren, ages 10, 7, 6, 4, and 3.  Bless their little heads, they have taught me more Hebrew than I care to admit and are very patient with me.  Also, when they roll their eyes I don't mind as much, it's kind of cute.  Then again, everything they do is kind of cute.

When I am spending time with Tani, age 6, first grade, we read Hebrew books.

This is how it goes:

  • Tani:   Bubby, do you want to read this book to me or do you want me to read it to you?
  • Me:    No, no, I can read it!
  • Tani:   Are you sure?  You had a hard time last time we did this.
  • Me:    Tani, I have to get better, so I'll read and you'll help me.
  • Tani (subtly rolling his eyes): OK, Bubby, let's go.

Then I sit there and am good for a few words until I start struggling.  The words are so nicely on the page but trip over each other on their way out of my mouth.  Also, thank goodness for nekudot.

Tani just surpassed my pathetic abilities - he started reading chapter books.  That's it, I'm done.

Then there's Ariella, age 10.  She will lapse into Hebrew in mid-sentence and I lose her.  Her Hebrew is fast and beautiful and I'm just smiling away, completely lost.

Then there's Nadav, age 3.  Nadav has a unique language all his own, a blend of Hebrew and English, such as, "Ima!  The mechonit went tachat ha-couch!" [Trans: Mommy, the car went under the couch]. Nevertheless, there are many times he is in all-Hebrew mode and there I am, only a bit older than he is, lost.

However, I have to say that hearing my own grandkids speak Hebrew like natives is a beautiful thing - it thrills me every time.

I have developed coping mechanisms for my lack of Hebrew expertise:

  1. I prepare before I go somewhere - e.g., if I'm going to a store I figure out what I may have to ask for and how I will say it and repeat it to myself over and over in the car on the way there. Then - the words play this little game of musical chairs and they come out of my mouth in the wrong order - see #6 and #7 below.
  2. I speak in English with an Israeli accent.  I'm VERY good at this.  If I don't know a word, I say it in Israeli -sounding English and they almost always understand me.  You just gotta roll those R's and lighten up on those L's and you're good to go.
  3. I avoid speaking Hebrew.  This is my best option!  Buy meat from the frozen meat section, packaged cheese - anything you can do to avoid speaking to someone behind a counter.
  4. I realized that I enjoy hearing Hebrew.  It's a beautiful, lyrical language and I enjoy trying to figure out what people are saying - well, some of the time, when they are not speaking directly to me.
  5. I smile!  I take cues from the people who are talking to me!  When they smile, I smile!  When they laugh, I laugh!
  6. I got used to making mistakes.  Enough said.
  7. I got used to being embarrassed - like when someone is speaking to me really fast and I have NO IDEA what they are saying, and I'm employing mechanism #5 above and then I realize they are waiting because they just asked me something.  And I have to say my favorite word, "Mah?"
  8. I embrace my immigrant status.  I just think, well,  I'm an immigrant, and proud of it.  Also, you can always play the "I'm an Olah Chadasha" card but you kinda get tired of that after two years....and a little embarrassed.
  9. I keep trying.  No matter what, I have to keep trying.  I say Hebrew sentences to myself, I try to read the newspaper, I speak in Hebrew even when the other person says I can speak in English. 
  10. I comfort myself - when I'm by myself in the car, my Hebrew is great!  I mean I am fluent, I find esoteric vocabulary words in the back of my brain and bring them out, my accent is perfect!  Someday that will also happen with real people.  
 So, thanks for listening.  I have to go practice now before I go to the home appliance store.