January 15, 2005

Hebrew Literacy

I am a native Californian, a born and bred Los Angeleno. I grew up with parents who spoke Spanish around the house and did basic blessings for the various chagim (holidays) we celebrated.

At around 7 I began attending Hebrew school where I was given the bare bones approach to Hebrew. I learned how to read and write it, gained a small vocabulary, but nothing that made me capable of carrying on a conversation.

After my Bar-Mitzvah I continued my education as a student at Los Angeles Hebrew High school. It was three days a week, a secondary school I attended after junior high and high school. My instruction in Hebrew was a little more intensive there, but it still left me lacking in aptitude.

But the summer of '85 changed that. Several months in Israel and a concerted effort to immerse myself did wonders for me. I can't claim complete fluency, but I was able to get around without trouble and reached a point where I had a couple of dreams in which I know that Hebrew was the primary language.

After high school I took two semesters of advanced Hebrew at my university and practiced my Hebrew with my Israeli friends, as well as during trips to Israel.

The point of this is that I reached a solid level of understanding and a certain competence with the language that has slowly been eroding away as I have not used the skills as much as I would like to. I spend some time at Ynet and other places trying to read the newspapers and listen to the conversations around me and find that I am just not making the grade.

My understanding is around the 30-35% of what I see and hear, sometimes more and sometimes less. It is enough to be able to guess at what the full meaning of the stories and conversations might be, but not enough to be certain.

I am trying to find time to take more classes or find another way to accelerate the learning and understanding of a language that feels like a pair of comfortable jeans that are just a little too tight on me.

It is time for a diet and time to focus.

2 comments:

B2 said...

Sounds very familiar... but my summer in Israel was in 1987, courtesy of L.A. Ulpan. And i got a great refresher when my wife and I lived in J'lem for a year as her first year in rabbinic school. She ws in classes, and I was learning street Hebrew and slang. Madliq!

Jack's Shack said...

LA Ulpan, I had a lot of friends who went on that trip, but most were earlier than '87.