I have reached the point where I try to have conversations in Hebrew. (I know! Good for me!)
I can order food at a cafe, check out library books, and make my way through the supermarket in Hebrew.
I can make doctor’s appointments, have short meaningless small-talk conversations with other parents, and give my phone number in Hebrew.
I can fumble my way through life. Today I forgot my membership card to the gym and managed to explain that I had left it in another bag and could I check in without it? It wasn’t pretty, but I got my point across.
I always, always have conversations with AM’s teachers in Hebrew, even though they must know he’s an English speaker. I mean, it’s nursery school, so really nothing earth-shattering is happening there. Elementary school is a much bigger deal to me.
Admittedly, there are things I try to have conversations about in English, mostly where finances or my kids’ health/schooling is concerned. So we see English-speaking doctors and dentists and have English-speaking insurance agents and accountants. Miss M’s teacher this year was raised in an English-speaking household, and I cannot express how huge a relief this is to me. This year really feels like a watershed year, from which we will determine the course of the rest of our lives (and I exaggerate only a smidge), and to be able to check in on her education in my native language…well, two thumbs up. I had been hoping to keep that information from Miss M (that her teacher speaks English), but I was busted on the first day of school. No matter; they speak Hebrew to each other at school and that’s what counts.
Of course, sometimes I feel like an idiot, and I usually have a hard time sustaining a conversation for more than about 90 seconds, but I try.
Feeling like an idiot is not as discouraging as it used to be. I must be growing.
But you know what I hate? People who interrupt me and say, “You can say it in English.”
Sometimes I am speaking very haltingly, or trying to explain something complicated (directions to Tel Aviv happens to me a lot–not hard, once you get out of Modiin, but Modiin itself can be confusing), and then I could legitimately use the assistance.
But when the receptionist from the dentist’s office calls to ask if I want to move up AM’s appointment and I say I can’t do it on the date being offered,* why interrupt me? I didn’t ask to switch to English. I wasn’t confused or hesitant. I may have used clunky Hebrew, but this wasn’t a complicated conversation.
Now I feel like a frustrated idiot. Which is discouraging.
I kind of appreciate the opportunity to muck around and make mistakes with gendered nouns and prepositions. I usually manage to express the idea that I have intended to express. For longer conversations I will often default to English because of the whole “sounding like an idiot when I don’t think I am” problem (Hebrew being spoken to me; I just can’t translate my thoughts in my head fast enough to speak at normal speed).
Certain people are more sympathetic…longer-term immigrants, for one. I spoke to a neighbor the other day, who turned out to be here 13 years, originally from Brazil. And I stumbled along in Hebrew as she nodded and smiled and reassured me that such a huge move is easier for the kids and harder for the adults and we’d all be fine.
I don’t buy the idea what people here want to improve their English so therefore want to speak English to Anglos. All they have to do is watch TV or listen to pop music, which is lousy with English from native speakers. Really, I think they’re not willing to spend an extra minute on me. And now I’m annoyed.
* For instance. But it also happens when clothes shopping, at security, etc, etc.