The day I’ve been anticipating for the past six months has come and gone, I think.
The day when AM’s Hebrew surpasses mine.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made so much progress in ulpan. So much. In the past couple of weeks I had a virus that caused me to look like I had raging pink eye. I presented myself to two different receptionists in two different doctor’s offices and had conversations, with Israeli adults who are not my ulpan teacher, entirely in Hebrew. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. To me, anyway.
But every day is a struggle to remember the vocabulary, the syntax, the conjugations. And hardest of all? The prepositions. Specific verbs take specific prepositions, and sometimes the match isn’t entirely logical…it just is what it is and to use the wrong one marks you as a greenhorn or an idiot (*my interpretation*), so wow, we try really hard to get it right in ulpan. And every day we get it wrong and are gently corrected. We have exactly seven more days of class to be coddled before our big final exam and being kicked out into the cruel Hebrew-speaking world.
But I digress.
This is about AM, and how he got mistaken for a sabra (native born Israeli) at the park today when he was overheard talking to another little boy. I don’t know that his vocabulary is fluent for a three year old, though he does give commands in the second person feminine correctly (i.e., to me). He had a terrifically funny conversation with the man cutting his hair last week about dressing up for Purim, and why he couldn’t because he’s a “yeled katan” (little boy). (This confused the barber immensely, because Purim = Halloween with Jewish content, so it is all about the costumes and the candy. It’s acceptable to dress up at any age, really.)
AM’s Hebrew sentences are just so organic. He matches the verb, properly conjugated to match the gender/number of the noun, to the preposition, properly declined,* without a second thought. He probably doesn’t know there are other options. It makes me grin for him and cry in frustration for me all at once.
In a year or two or three I might fear for his English skills, but for right now he can read his name and Miss M’s and “puppy” and “go” and “stop” and “cat” and “dog” and use the verb spatter correctly. So I think we’re all set. New language at three beats new language at five and definitely beats new language at 34.
I have to study some more. I might try sleeping on my verb sheets for some osmosis. Or maybe skip ulpan to go to gan with AM.
* המיכונית באה אלינו