University of Haifa International School Student Blog
I just pity-cried in front of my teacher and to myself over my frustration in Hebrew class. can i be demoted a level? is there something lower than beginners? i think that compared to my classmates, who are mostly non-jewish and have never spoken hebrew before, i have a lot more baggage attached to the language. for most of my life, i have kind of ignored hebrew, even though it was present in my house, because i accepted that i just wouldn’t understand it. now, i have to understand it, and it’s rather annoying, coupled with the fact that it is not the simplest language to master. i still don’t have the alphabet down, which is my primary problem, and i plan on working on that today. i feel that in a way, i am rather lazy about learning the language, since i can get away with speaking english here. it takes me a while to read something in hebrew, and it is easier to just ignore writing rather than try to understand it by asking someone else in english what it says. i also feel resentful that i have to sit in a class and learn instead of go outside and explore haifa and israel. i’m just lazy, and making excuses for the fact that i am not taking to the language as quickly as i’d like, and it feels like other people in my class are. it is really frustrating when i am in class, and am called on to read a word, and i try, but other people are saying the answer under their breath, so it defeats the purpose of trying. it’s annoying. it’s not your turn to give the answer. i am also frustrated when we are supposed to have conversations, and i can not remember any of the questions we are supposed to ask, or how to give the right answer, so i am always a bad partner, and feel like an ignorant american (partially because i am one, and am complacent with just knowing english). i honestly did not come to this campus to learn hebrew, i applied to the ulpan to (1) be eligible for scholarships and (2) get out of long island earlier. it is not a bad program, and my teacher is great, i just don’t want to do it. it’s not enjoyable to me right now. my only motivation for continuing is the thought of being able to finally have a conversation with my safta at some point in the future. i think that is also why i am so bothered by not being able to catch on so well. if you can’t tell, my feelings are pretty complicated right now. i’m going to practice more and hope i can get better and stop being frustrated with myself. learning was so much easier in the real world, with matan calling out names for words, and sesame street. the classroom just doesn’t feel right to me. we used a computer program for understanding vowels, which was so so helpful because it incorporated pictures and let you repeat the lesson as many times as you wanted to. i need repetition and pictures, neither of which are present in the classroom. we do repeat words, but i forget them.
After I wrote the first part of this post, I decided to study in my room all afternoon. My suitemate, Hila, gave me some good feedback and encouragement, as did Rodrigo, a fortysomething Brazilian who teaches at UC Santa Barbara and only learned English four years ago (he speaks it, and several other languages perfectly). Rodrigo always has a smile on his face in the Joga Bonito kind of way, and is so good at Hebrew already. I felt like such a New York sourpuss in my class after being so frustrated and just giving up after feeling overwhelmed. I kicked in my usual work ethic and now pretty much know the alphabet down pat. I can also read several words if I take the time to sound out each letter, and have become better at vowels. Hebrew isn’t all that bad, and I spent the rest of the evening with Becky, Chelsea, and Hannah, getting feedback from them and copying really helpful notes. Usually, I study by myself, but it is so helpful to work with others in this environment. I am really changing things up over here! I can now say that tomorrow during class, I will feel more confident and not as lost. I KNOW THE ALPHABET! I CAN WRITE! Literacy is power.