For the past 10 months, when people ask me what I’m doing with my time, I’ve explained that I am in ulpan, trying to make sense of Hebrew.
And now that security net is officially over. Back in February I took a test. I got a good grade, and I came back for more instruction (just twice a week instead of every weekday) for four months. Now I’ve reached the end of the (free) road–any further classes would be at my expense. It could be worth it, if I could find the right class. Also if I were working more hours/jobs, so I could justify the expense.
I’ve figured out a few things:
- Hebrew really is more sensible than English. Root letters = words with similar or related meanings. It all makes sense. (English, with its roots from many different languages, is a mess. Comparatively.)
- Of course, 10 months isn’t enough time to learn ALL of the roots. Ten years, maybe.
- The exceptions to the rules become more expected and less annoying as time goes on.
- True to form, I can write and read infinitely better than I can speak. The newspaper that’s written in easy Hebrew, which was very challenging for me back in October, I can now read semi-fluently. When called upon to write the card for our ulpan teacher, I drafted first, corrected, and finished without a single mistake. (She said so! I impressed myself!)
- It’s important to expose yourself to a variety of Hebrew speakers. The more time you spend with the same individual (ulpan teachers are the best example), the easier it is to understand them but nobody else.
- To that end, I’ve figured out that picking up hitchhikers is supremely helpful. A 20 year old girl in my car, asking me 30 minutes worth of questions that I have to answer in Hebrew, makes me sweat in the air conditioning, but it is ultimately great practice.
- Working in Hebrew-speaking environment is probably the best way of all to get comfortable, but given that my expertise is English writing, editing, grammar geeking, etc., how likely is that to happen?
I am still confounded and frustrated and feel like I will never be able to have an intelligent conversation, read a novel, or tell a joke. But I’m far better off that I was last September.