Monday, December 24, 2012

Kochava Goes to Hebrew School

Quite literally. Yesterday was my first day in a modern Hebrew language class. I had forgotten how much I love learning languages! 

I wanted to share a funny story with you from my first day:

Moreh (Teacher): "Kochava, tell me a word with the letter reish."
Kochava: "Uhhh...rasha?"
Moreh: "LOLZ"
The day's other contenders included, but were not limited to: shulchan, sefer, Har Sinai, ashrei, halacha, and neviim.

I'm the annoying kid in Hebrew class who only knows religious Hebrew words. Why is this a problem? Ulpan is about learning to speak at a practical level as soon as possible. Almost all my words were useless in an ulpan setting. You will need to ask for the bathroom before asking for a rasha. Or so you would hope.

Back to the flashcards and cursive letters! Yes, I never learned anything but block letters. I am a FAIL at Hebrew so far.


  1. There's a classic story about someone from Bnai Brak who witnessed a car crash. He was asked by a policeman about what he had witnessed, but he was much more fluent in Yiddish than in Hebrew. He tried to explain using vocabulary from the Talmud:

    The first chariot plowed into ...

  2. Cursive is the best! Everything you write looks so much more legit.

  3. Hah, during my Basic Judaism class the rabbi started writing things on the board in cursive and I made him switch to block letters because that's all I can read and was trying to pick up as much Hebrew as possible.

    Is the Ulpan method similar to what Rosetta Stone puts out? i.e. 'She eats a sandwich. He eats a sandwich. They eat a sandwich' and then expect you to pick up the words and grammar? I've been thinking about taking Hebrew at the JCC, but something like that would drive me crazy with boredom.

  4. Sometimes I feel like we're Hebrew twins. Here's what I'll say after one semester of modern Hebrew in an academic setting:

    1.) It's reeeeally embarrassing being the one who always knows only religious words, or who connects every word we learn TO a religious word, or who says, "why isn't that like the word with the same shoresh that I know from the Torah/Talmud/etc.?" BUT
    2.) It definitely helps with retention, because your brain will build tiny little brain bridges between the religious words and the "real" words.
    3.) Half the words we learn ARE religious words anyway. Case in point: our whole unit on words for weddings. There was another unit on social structure in Israel that involved a lot of words about religion, which was also helpful.
    4.) It will help your Hebrew reading speed, like, OH MY HASHEM SO MUCH. I'm still painfully slow, but I finally passed the milestone where I can finish the weekday Shacharit Minchah Amidah before the Kedusha of Hazarat ha-Shatz. May not sound like much, but it's huge for me.
    5.) Hebrew is frustrating for me *because* I love learning languages. Aside from Hebrew, I speak five languages with varying degrees of fluency, and Hebrew, while it may be easier than some of them, doesn't fit the grammatical paradigm of any language I speak (especially when it comes to conjugation).
    6.) Dear Hebrew,
    When your three-letter shoresh is constantly being prefixed, suffixed, and...midfixed?...EVERY VERB SOUNDS THE SAME. kthxbai

    1. I've just glimpsed my future, and I'm frightened LOL

      But I think you're right.

  5. Hah! Your religious background will help you when you make the jump to more literary Hebrew. Stuff keeps coming back, often in places you least expect it.

    (e.g. Subtitle in a movie translates "What's that got to do with the price of tea in China?" as "Mah inyan shmitta etzel Har Sinai?"

    The handwriting thing I can identify with. I was taught how to block print, but my script is self-taught, which gives me a somewhat odd, if legible handwriting of which I am oddly ashamed. Oh well.

    --The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret

  6. There's also the story about the guy who volunteered on kibbutz and went to the laundry to ask for a work hat using Biblical Hebrew.

    "Ani chafeitz la-mitznefet le-amahl" ("I desire a headdress for labor.")


  7. I took three years of Modern Hebrew while I was at university. It was my one fun class, and I adored it. We used the Brandeis Modern Hebrew textbook, which is unfortunately lacking a bit (and it's the best one out there right now.) My professor supplemented with her own texts on a weekly basis. If you'd like I can see if she'd be willing to give you a copy of her stuff. If it tells you anything at the end of the second year I was writing multi-page essays about important leaders in Israel thanks to her methodology.