Monday, February 22, 2021

#53 Hebrew Lessons #CountingSheep #SuperficialJoy #InternationalTeaching @CitizenTLV

When I lived in Abu Dhabi there was zero need to learn Arabic. I did take a class at the Eton Institute that I really enjoyed, especially learning the letters. However, when I would speak to someone in Arabic they almost always answered me in English. The common language there is English so gym classes and lectures and commerce are conducted in English, even if it is also in Arabic.

Israel, not so much. Everything is in Hebrew. The street signs are the exception: Hebrew, Arabic and English (which is super helpful). Many people in Tel Aviv speak English as well as Hebrew, but generally conversations will start in Hebrew. If I say "shalom" when I walk into a store, they answer me in Hebrew. The gym I attend conducts classes in Hebrew, although all of the trainers speak English and will translate for me if I ask. However, I was told by one last week, "you need to learn some Hebrew."  😕

Little did he know I already started learning Hebrew! Over Christmas vacation when I had the big epiphany that I was the one making myself miserable I looked at ways I could set myself up to accept and thrive in my life here, in Israel, right now. One of the principles I try to incorporate into my life is "participation is the key to harmony" that I borrowed from recovery programs. How better to participate in a foreign country, as well as reduce resentment about not fitting in, than to learn the language (Or at least attempt to)?

I've been going for 2 weeks now. Like everything in Israel, it is wicked expensive. Classes are twice a week for 1.5 hours each and this week 45 minute practice sessions just started.

I HATE it. I was skeptical from the beginning because the goal conversation. I have no confidence that I can learn to speak Hebrew, but I got swayed by the charming guy in my free 20 minute intro session. It is super uncomfortable. A teacher and about 12 of us gather and we practice saying phrases to each other for long stretches of time. We are also learning how to write in Hebrew as well, but we learned all of the letters in three lessons! I have to pay super close attention or I get totally lost. Actually, even when I pay super close attention I get totally lost. I feel like I did when I went to Mass one Sunday in Poland or Czech Republic--I went through the motions and had a general idea of what was going on, but I had absolutely no idea what was being said. Actually, I felt more comfortable in Mass because at least I had the motions down from years of practice.

So I sit through these classes feeling utterly lost and a little humiliated most every time I get called on. 

But on Saturday after the first week of classes I was shocked when I understood some words! Katan means small! At the gym I understood just a few more words. The speed-learning of the letters is working as well! I can pick some letters out of signs. When the homework started the next week, writing the words out really helped. I felt so lost in class without letters and sounds to look at--you are not supposed to write anything in English except the names of the letters--but being able to see the letters used for different words is helping with my pronunciation. Perhaps there IS a method to the madness of Citizen Cafe!

I started thinking I love it. There is no doubt I love learning and exercising my brain--and that is certainly happening here!

Today I attended the first practice session and the ick started all over again. I was totally lost and felt what Brene Brown describes as a "warm wash of shame" come over me. I cringe to recall some of my responses. 

But I will not give up. Because it is used daily here, I already know more Hebrew than I ever learned in Arabic. 

I am so grateful for something to challenge and occupy my time in this world of mundane repetition we are currently living in; most importantly I am grateful that I was willing to look and have found something that helps me fit in rather than sitting on the sidelines feeling left out and resentful. 

My practice session today

1 comment:

  1. beautifully written....heartfelt empathy for ur confidence, then frustration. This AP Spanish whiz who placed out of 14 hours of UT Spanish with a 4.0 didn't do well in French classes a decade out of college...and that's the same alphabet and romantic base as English. HANG IN THERE....grit builds character