Sunday, October 18, 2009

¿Cómo se dice...?


Living abroad brings the opportunity to learn another language. In college I studied Spanish (beginner I-IV). I picked it up fairly quickly. I would like to thank Sesame Street for that one. I traveled to Costa Rica and made my way about just find with the basics—greetings, ordering food, taking taxis, etc. But that was all in my Freshman and Sophomore years (1998-2000) and I haven’t exercised my Spanish since then.

In 2004 I moved to Israel. Eh, why not? I know it’s random but the opportunity was there so I took it. Not being Jewish, I had no experience what-so-ever with Hebrew. So, naturally I took a class. Holey Moley is it a hard language to learn. We’re talking a new alphabet, reading right to left, on top of sounds that are completely unnatural to a native English speaker. Umbrellas may be necessary for others until you master these sounds. I took lesions at a school called Ulpan Gordon for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, over about 5 months. The class was, to say the least, grueling (only because the teacher was very scary). If you’re really interested you can see for yourself. There was a documentary on my class (Ha’Ulpan or The Hebrew Lesson by David Ofek). Although I was scared to death to talk in class (I didn’t like being yelled at or chastised by the teacher) I stuck it out though because I enjoyed my classmates; some of whom I am still friends with to this day. At the time I hated Hebrew. Every time I tried to practice and made a mistake someone would suck their teeth at me. I was brought up with Southern manners so I never quite got used to people sucking their teeth at me. So basically, I used English and boycotted Hebrew the entire 3 years I lived there. I dug my heels in. The irony is, whenever I traveled back to The States, I loved speaking Hebrew. I probably perfected my Hebrew the most outside of Israel. Ya know, it’s kind of nice to talk to your friends when others can’t understand you. I have to admit I got a little something from the exclusivity of the language. Now I still love Hebrew (ironic I know) and try to speak it whenever I can and even do so in my dreams.

So now… I’m in Central America. Spanish! Everyone always says have a drink or two and you will be able to speak the language. Well that worked for me in Hebrew, but now, not so much. Communicating with the locals I’m finding nearly impossible. Did you know that they don’t speak Hebrew? Of course you did but why does my brain spurt this very strange combination of English-Spanish-Hebrew? Also when you make mistakes where I am, the people roll their eyes and walk away. Same feeling of rudeness except it is intentional rudeness expressed with apathy. They don’t care about themselves so why would they care about me? (Please note that I am NOT referring to all Central American countries. I have found some very warm people in Costa Rica, for example, who are very kind and willing to help you along the way. I’m referring to the specific country that I find myself in currently).

At this point I don’t think I’m going to just be able to pick up where I left off with my old Spanish. So… dun dun dun… today I started my first Spanish lesion (again)! Yay! It’s a class that meets every morning with flexible curriculum. The teacher is friendly and the classroom is small. Today there were only 2 students. Great!

My biggest fear is losing the little Hebrew that I have retained. After all, it is God’s language… good thing he's bilingual.



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