Friday, June 6, 2014

Making Peace with Hebrew

That's me!
I have been trying to learn Hebrew, off and on, for the last fifteen years or so. A few years ago, James gave me a copy of Rosetta Stone Hebrew. I used it for a while, then I took an actual Hebrew course. A problem I had with the course was that no one in my group wanted to take second-level Hebrew, so I jumped to third-level Hebrew with self study for the second level. Throw in a freeway collision (I was rear-ended by a guy on his cell phone) and the need to recuperate, and it just wasn't possible. Now that I've forgotten just about everything, I've returned to Hebrew.

When I launched Rosetta Stone (for the first time in about two years), I needed to run it though a series of updates. Then it remembered who I was and where I had left off. Except I was going to crank things back to Lesson 1. Time to say שלום (Shalom) all over again. I adjusted my microphone and said "shalom" to Rosetta Stone after a long absence.

My basic feeling is that the initial set of verbs, though all describing familiar things, are still somewhat abstract. I doubt I will ever need to say "the girls are running," or "the man eats." Still, every language course has to start you off with something pretty basic. At one point "la birdo kantas" was about as complex as I got in Esperanto.

I remember joking during one of my previous attempts that I had the language skills of a not particularly bright Israeli three-year old. A phrase like "the fish is red" might as well be prefaced with "look, Mommy!" This is one of the frustrations of learning a language; suddenly your world is constrained by a limited vocabulary. I know (from past usage) that eventually Rosetta Stone will give me the words, but currently I can't tell you what they're eating or drinking. (I do know the word for "bread" and was even able to read it off the back of a bread truck while in Israel.)

Of course, there's the vowels issue. Rosetta Stone shows me the vowels, though I am aware that Hebrew-for-Grownups doesn't include the vowel pointing. All those signs in Israel were without vowels, although I would try to sound them out. We passed a billboard advertising the movie mal Figuring out that the word in large (Hebrew) letters was a transliteration of the title was easy. But what were those words above it? אנג'לינה ג'ולי  There was some measure of triumph when I realized that  was "Angelina Jolie."

Maybe this time, I'll get to some form of adult understanding of Hebrew. I'm sure I'll be back to Israel (there were places we wanted to see that we just didn't have time for). There's also the issue of not wanting to concede defeat by a language. So back to Hebrew.

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