Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ah, Hebrew

As I said in my last blog, learning Hebrew and being comfortable enough to speak to an Israeli are constant challenges for olim.

I can practice and practice, but the words trip over themselves on the voyage from my brain to my mouth and I always end up sounding like an idiot.

Yesterday, though, was interesting.  We had a fix-it person over who only speaks Hebrew.  He is a sweet fellow who has done a lot of work for us.  Interestingly, and shockingly, I was able to speak to him pretty well.  A lot of the words came out of my mouth correctly, and some were words that I didn't even know I knew! 

But I figured it out. There must be a safe that keeps all of the correctly conjugated words in the deep recesses of my brain - there has to be because I LEARNED ALL OF THIS IN ULPAN and I don't remember most of it.  But for some reason, it must have mistakenly been open for a few minutes, and I'm hoping that happens again.

I have found that reticence to speak to Israelis happens with women more than men.  I think that women are more nervous about sounding stupid and men are not (no, I am not man-bashing here, I am man-honoring!).  My conversations with Anglo friends here have borne this theory out.  We are more reticent to "just try" speaking - maybe that's an age thing, but I kind of think it's a woman thing. 

Also, I realize that no matter what I say and how good my accent is, they always know we are Anglos - you just can't fake being an Israeli.  In fact, it must have something to do with physical appearance as well, maybe we Anglos have non-Israeli looks on our faces (less grimaces, more smiles?).  Yesterday we walked into a restaurant and before I had said a word they handed us an English menu.

The nicest experiences are when I apologize for my broken Hebrew and they look at me in shock, saying, "But your Hebrew is great, what are you talking about?" 

However, I am not naive.  I know that the government must pay them to say that ("Keep the Anglos here, tell them they speak Hebrew well!  Do anything, don't let them leave!"  must be the message).

Either way, I am, as I've said before, getting used to sounding dumb and to trying out my Hebrew on unsuspecting Israelis who visibly cringe when I speak. 

And every once in a while I'm hoping that the Safe of Correct Hebrew opens up by accident and I get a complete and correct sentence out without embarrassing myself and the entire Anglo community.

I'll keep trying.  Shalom, see ya.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I get a Hebrew menu at a restaurant I consider that a personal victory!

    I know that the government must pay them to say that ("Keep the Anglos here, tell them they speak Hebrew well! Do anything, don't let them leave!" must be the message).