A word or two……

So you know your Hebrew is coming along nicely when you wake up in the middle of the night and start conjugating verbs. Lomed.Lomedet.Lomdim. Lomdot. Ay Carumba! No wait, wrong language!

The hebrew language is several thousands of years old and like the people who speak it on a daily basis, it cannot be boxed in by rules or structure! As I mentioned in my previous blog post, when you commit to making Aliyah you have to commit to everything that comes with it. That includes coming to grips with the national tongue. Many Anglo Olim fall into the trap of “well most people speak English anyway so I can get by with that”. Not so fast. If you want to truly integrate into Israeli society, you need to have a good command of the language. Afterall, you wouldn’t live in France without learning French now would you? Nachon.

Having a good command of Hebrew means that not only will you be able to converse and join the workforce but you will also be able to do all those important things that are imperative to surviving in Israel. This includes understanding the banking services, buying train or bus tickets and of course the most important……..ordering your coffee! Yes, cafe society is part and parcel of Israeli living. You must be able to communicate if you want “l’kachat” (take away) “L’shevet” (to sit) and what delicious edibles the waitron is telling you about in the usual rapid manner.
Learning a new language is intimidating for sure. Especially when english style letters are not used and you think that what you are writing so diligently should be displayed in the abstract section of an art gallery!

Someone once said that Hebrew is ingrained in the Jewish soul. No amount of soul-searching will help you conjugate verbs or understand those elusive gender rules!

Luckily, Israel has the processes in place to help its Olim become proficient in the national tongue.
Enter Ulpan. Ulpan is an intense five month programme or as I like to think of it “Hebrew bootcamp”. Not only does Ulpan present a brilliant opportunity to learn Hebrew but also to form important social bonds with other immigrants. Where else would a Portuguese speaker and a Russian speaker be forced to speak to each other in their new shared language?

Most countries have a preferred national sport. In Israel it is the ability to debate. Israel is a passionate country and her citizens feel very strongly about airing their opinions – all this is done is rapid Hebrew with the odd hand gesture. Well, hand gestures are mostly reserved for dodgy drivers! The point I am trying to make is that if you really want to fit in you must make every effort to speak Hebrew.

There is something very comforting about hearing people speak Hebrew. While it can be gutteral, Hebrew is also very melodic and expressive. In an extremely modern and technology driven country, hearing an ancient language brough to life is awe-inspiring!

Now if I can only figure out those infinitive verbs…….

6 thoughts on “A word or two……

  1. The example you gave of “l’kachat”(to take) and “La shevet”(to sit) is very important when you go to a place like Aroma for coffee because they charge you more when you sit then when you take the coffee out. So what many Israelis will do is order the coffee to take away andd then, sit down and drink it!
    Also, since Hebrew is constantly adopting new words, thank G-d today mostly from English, there are some very interesting and fun combinations(the word for “combination” is “combatziah’). For example, to send an SMS is “L’ Samess.” Biblical Hebrew has only 50,000 words but modern Hebrew has many times that number. That is why “television’ is “televiziah”, “radio” is “radeeyo” and, yes, “catering” is ” kay ter een.”
    Another pitfall of olim is trying to read a word written in Hebrew letters that is in English already, like “psykologia” for “psychology.” And even though we all know “rofeh” is “doctor” Israelis say “doktor” when they mean a man of medicine.
    Nu? Zot ha aretz!


  2. Loving the blog. Don’t ever stop writing it and don’t ever stop being as passionate and dynamic as you are about this crazy place we now call home. It can be so infuriating, frustrating and irritating but it really is home – and that is where the heart is.


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