Saturday, December 11, 2010

Being in Hebrew

I touched on this briefly here, but it's gotten easier for me to be in Hebrew. To converse, to think, to formulate sentences. It's still easier in English (despite my, "לא משנה" answer when people ask which language I prefer. In most of those cases I've found it's easier to speak in Hebrew, because the person I'm talking to might understand English but does not speak it that well) overall, but I can switch between the languages easily, and I find my Hebrew sprinkled with English and my English sprinkled with Hebrew. This came up last week when I went to a family for Shabbos. They made aliyah about 17 years ago (give or take), her two youngest kids were born here (the older ones were about 5 and down when they moved), but all the kids are very Israeli. They all speak English with pretty good American accents, but they read much more comfortably in Hebrew. I was talking about how it is working in Hebrew and being surrounded by so much Hebrew, and the mom said that when she talks she has a hard time staying in one language-- if she's in a business meeting or on a business call in English, she has to work vary hard to not let a Hebrew word slip into her sentences, whereas she says her kids stay in one language when they speak. But at home her kids speak mostly Hebrew between themselves.

I've broken this down into a couple of categories: Working in Hebrew, doing official things (kupat cholim, banking, phone, etc.) in Hebrew, shopping in Hebrew, and dating in Hebrew.

Working in Hebrew:
Definitely harder in terms of the professional terminology, but it's gotten easier. I'm learning the words I need, and, like someone once told me-- most of it is conversational anyway. He was right. And especially working with kids, there are a lot of words that I'm picking up. When I talk with my-- not my supervisor, but the OT who gives my supervision, we speak in English. But when we are around the kids or with other therapists, we speak in Hebrew. When I talk with the other therapists and the teachers, we usually speak in Hebrew (with the exception of a couple of therapists and teachers). My reports are in Hebrew, but my session notes are in English. Meetings with the staff and parents are in Hebrew. I'm getting there; I need to be more patient with myself in that respect-- yes, I've been here a year; yes, this is my third year in a school system, BUT (but BUT here)-- I've only been in a professional environment in Hebrew for 3 months. And almost one of those was holidays, so it's barely that. And, yes, it's my third year as a school-based OT, but it took me about year to get used to the system in NYC, and then halfway through the second year I moved here. So...I need to be more patient with myself about this and give myself more of a chance to get acclimated to the system here and learn it.
MDA- Easily half in English and half in Hebrew. On the ambulances- depends on the staff, but equipment is usually in Hebrew. When I'm working with people who aren't so fluent in Hebrew, then we go to English. But when I teach I ALWAYS use the Hebrew words for equipment because that's what they need to know.

Doing official things (kupat cholim, banking, phone, etc.) in Hebrew:
These are most easily done, I find, in Hebrew. Kupat cholim- when dealing with the kupah itself I find that Hebrew is easier. When dealing with the doctors and nurses and techs- I usually speak in Hebrew. If the doctor speaks or understands English and I can't express myself well enough in Hebrew I speak in English (I prefer to go to English-speaking doctors for this reason, even though I'm usually fine in Hebrew). Banking- I found someone who speaks English. Much easier to do my banking in English, because also the systems are different and I found someone who is familiar with both the American and Israeli systems. Phone- I find that arguing in my accented Hebrew sometimes gets me further, but also-- my phone company doesn't seem to provide great service in English. So I use Hebrew.
Shopping in Hebrew:
It's all about the conversions. And learning the names of foods. Sizes- eh. But negotiation is a skill that must be done in Hebrew, preferably with a more Israeli accent than less, because many Israelis assume that if you speak English with an American accent you are a rich American. So...yeah. Hebrew accent it is for that.

Dating in Hebrew.
Hehe. Right. I find it easier to date someone who is bilingual, because sometimes I can express myself better in Hebrew-- the words fit better-- but I also need English. I couldn't date someone who only spoke Hebrew (aside from how he would communicate with my family, I need someone who speaks English). I went on a date with an Israeli and after the date he called me and said he didn't think it would work because of the different mentalities. I'm not quite sure what he meant, but I also know that I needed someone who spoke- not just read and wrote- English. I've been on a couple of dates in Hebrew, which were ok, but I prefer to date someone who also speaks English. Definitely more comfortable.

Maybe I'll revisit this in a few months and see if my comfort level in Hebrew has changed at all.


  1. Hey Lauren! - Yes, I'm still reading Aliyah blogs, though I don't even feel like I'm the new kid on the block anymore - Can you pleaaaaaase pretty please link to my English site as well on your bloglist? :)