Israeli “Who’s on First”

“יש לי חנות.”
“מה יש בחנות?”
“פיצה וקוסקוס. מה את רוצה?”
“פיצה.”
“אין לי.”
“אבל אמרת שיש פיצה?? אוקי אז קוסקוס.”
“אין לי.”
“אז מה יש??”
“כלום.”
“אז אני רוצה כלום.”
“אין לי!”
“אבל אמרת שיש כלום!”

Little does he realize this is EXACTLY how it happens here. #sabrakids

Loose translation:

“I have a store.”

“What do you sell?”

“Pizza and couscous. What do you want?”

“Pizza.”

“I don’t have.”

“But you said you have pizza? Ok, couscous.”

“I don’t have.”

“So what do you have?”

“Nothing.”

“So I want nothing.”

“I don’t have!”

“You said you have nothing!”

8 things I’ve already learned this Chanukah

It’s only the fourth night and I can point to eight things I’ve learned this Chanukah:

  1. Chanukah is really really really hard with comprehending kids and not much/no family around. Watching your other immigrant friends run around to local family parties with parents, in-laws, siblings, etc. is tough.
  2. Giving out-of-the-blue presents to a small child is not simple; even when attached to a ‘reason’ like Chanukah.
  3. A second child opening a gift is different to a firstborn in his loner years; the paper used to be the most fascinating thing. A second born knows from watching closely that the paper’s just a distraction.
  4. I really don’t love sufganiyot. There, I said it. There are exceptions, but most are simply not worth it. But for the love of miracles, keep the fried potatoes coming.
  5. My 3.5-year-old can handle holding a burning candle and lighting his chanukiyah by himself… and I didn’t even think twice about letting it happen?!
  6. My kids are already starting to gang up on immigrant mom and they don’t even know it yet. For days Bebe has been pointing at things and saying ‘apiphon! apiphon!’ I asked Koala what she was saying, and he said ‘chilazon!’ which, oddly, I took as a valid answer. Then a couple days ago I heard her sing, ‘apiphon, sov sov sov…’ and felt immigrant-dumb.
  7. I can burst into the Twelve Days of Christmas carol in an instant, while my kids watch in amazed wonderment, replacing all the words with Hanukkah-friendly lyrics – freestyle, just like that, not a pause. And Koala doesn’t miss a beat, sings parts back while on the toilet in the next room. Lyrics below.
  8. A family technologically-savvy enough to get it together from four corners of the world – in this case, three different American cities and one Israeli suburb – and sign on to a Google Hangout to have a virtual candle lighting with their grandchildren/nephew and niece, is a truly amazing miracle.

Eight Nights of Chanukah, remix, lizrael style:

On the first night of Chanukah, my true love gave to me… a dreidal in a dreidal tree…
On the second night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 2 hot latkes…
On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 3 fried doughnuts…
On the fourth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 4 colorful candles…
On the fifth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 5 golden menorahs…
On the sixth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 6 wrapped gifts…
On the seventh night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 7 hanukah songs…
On the eighth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 8 bottles of oil…

Yeah, ‘a dreidal in a dreidal tree’ is not the best, I admit.

How do you take your Hebrew? Heavily-accented.

Anglo self-hate. Nothing wins more comments on the Times of Israel than that.

The latest? This piece by Noga Martin: Why can’t the Anglos learn to speak?

The author made aliyah at 19 with no background in Hebrew. She managed to learn it and speak it fluently, as well as develop an Israeli accent in doing so.

That’s really wonderful. Seriously. And I agree with the point that Anglos must try harder to learn Hebrew before and while they are here. Must.

But in her article, short and to the disrespectful point, she calls out the Anglos, especially North Americans, who never develop an accent, even as they manage to become fully fluent in Hebrew. And she calls out specifically Rabbi Dov Lipman, who gave a grammatically-correct Hebrew speech at the rally this weekend, albeit with a heavy American accent. He’s been here eight years, apparently.

I WISH I had his confidence. Maybe I’d speak that well. He should be revered as an shining example of what Anglo olim should strive for. He gets a ‘kol hakavod’ from me.

In my Masters here most of my professors happened to be Anglo. (Maybe it had to do with it being a Conflict Management course? Stam, stam.)

And throughout the two years of listening to their heavily accented Hebrew lectures, I retained a sense of high respect and pride. They didn’t give a crap, or at least they didn’t show it. And the students, even if I’m sure they had their share of making fun, did acknowledge the respect for it.

Sometimes I let my mind travel back to my elementary and high school years; unlike the author, I have been engaged in a Hebrew environment, academically, since first grade. I’d estimate half my teachers were Israeli, half Americans or other. Yet most of the time, the Hebrew was fine, accented or not. I took for granted being surrounded by a second language and the  fact that the non-native Hebrew speakers were doing it, Anglo accented, full time, in class. In America.

Here’s a superficial pet peeve we may share: I do cringe when people put on the rolling R’s and can’t pass. But who cares what I think? Good for them for trying.

The point is, do not dare to discourage people actually trying to make it work. And there are plenty of Anglos who do. Like the author of the Times of Israel post. People who come when they’re 20, 45, 60. People who come from any country. As posted in the comments, we could list many many high profile Israelis with strong accents – our foreign minister, bless his crazy soul. Golda Meir, who was the freakin prime minister. Stanley Fischer, another Anglo making a difference.

Gedalyah Reback wrote a really fascinating response about the science/linguistics behind learning language and picking up accents. They are two totally two different functions.

Let’s agree to first focus on learning the language b’chlal, shall we?

UPDATE: And then tonight, when my son asked me to read him a classic Hebrew children’s story, I was filled with all this pride – maybe for the first time – as I read it to him in my horrible disgraceful American accent. So thanks for that.

 

Koala update: Three years.

Koala, if you’ll wait patiently over there a minute (ha) while I tell the future parents/new parents a little secret:

One thing I’ve learned this past year is that the ‘terrible twos’ is a misnomer. The alleged phase starts way earlier than two, and by the time that two is turning into a three, it’s long over and out.

The fun’s begun way before they’re blowing out three candles.

Back to you, love.

Yes, it was tough in the beginning of the year. Let’s put side the new baby sister just three weeks shy of your second birthday. And the moving on to a big boy bunk bed with its share of scary aspects.

We weren’t communicating very well. You were sorting out language – two languages – and we were trying to figure out how best to make you understand while learning, most of the time, we were the ones who needed to understand…

That our kid was actually trilingual – Hebrew, English and… crying.

But time’s gone on and you’ve dropped that last one; we know it’s a ruse and you know we know. That’s allowed for more attention spent on the fun stuff.

Like when you started playing ‘same as’ with language… ‘cat’ ‘חתול’ – same as! ‘Umbrella’ ‘מטריה’ – same as! And the game has evolved in the last month… paging Princess Bride, we are full on rhyming and laughing while doing it. ‘Hand ‘sand’ – same as!

But man oh man. The first few times I heard you break out your resh… I could stand up and say HaTikvah with my hand over my heart. Now there’s an oleh milestone. You’ve come a long way from when the kids at gan laughed because you pronounced your girlfriend’s name Shee-ra… like an אמרקאי.

No one’s laughing now that you’ve got two languages to show off at gan (and your ganenets are always kinda curious slash showing off anything they know in English).

But what’s still cute is that your L’s in English are actually, oddly, NG’s. So it’s good your favorite color isn’t yengo. (But it is orange. What is up with that? And the fact that you LOVE olives?)

We’ve also gotten a kick out of your navigating language concepts… life concepts… mainly the concept of ‘something’ which is everything and nothing, all at once, but to you, it’s just one thing, one specific thing you know you want but can’t name, can only describe, and that something – that sumping – well, it’s everything until you can get your hands on it.

Moving on… lower down in your universe. You were toilet trained this year, a while ago. The undies were an adventure, still are on a day-to-day as you carefully select the pair you’ll wear backwards today (as you so rationally explain, you want to see the picture on the front).

But you’ve also set out on the long and windy road to knowing the differences between girls and boys, Imas and Abbas. Ima and Bebe vs Abba and Koala.

Though, for the good portion of the year, as you grew more and more excited for your big, first time haircut, you did believe that the key difference in the world of people was long hair and short, or as you call it – not having a haircut – like Koala and Ima – and those who do have a haircut – like Abba – and Bebe.

As you talk more, play more, sit on the floor and imagine more… as you take lines from gan stories sugar coating יציאת מצרים and repeatedly cast the characters of your imagination ‘בתוך הבור’ – you become sweeter, you become happier and you become more and more fun. More of the little partner in play I always hoped for, ever since I was a camp counselor for three-year-olds way back when. Ever since it became my favorite age.

The secret spice is innocence… driving through the checkpoint the other day, you spotted the soldiers, and told me they’re carrying drills. Like Abba. Like Grandpa.

I hope so, Koala. I hope that’s all you ever know.

And I have a confession to make, Koala. Please don’t report us.

You didn’t really get to go on a beach until you were three. Exactly. As in today. Literally.

Yes, your native-islander mother and Australian father denied you that pleasure until you were three.

But we had a blast today, didn’t we? Before you go back to therapy and work it out, I’ll say this: I don’t think as a smaller child you would have enjoyed it as much as today, as I swooshed you up for the waves, as you basked in a salty face full of a rite of passage childhood pleasure.

It’s all a lot to squeeze into one big happy birthday post, Koala. There’s so much about you I love, I become inspired by… and that I feel challenged by. You’re constantly teaching me about patience, even if it seems like it’s the other way around. You’re inspiring me to keep going forward because there’s a million worlds to discover in a single soul. You’re putting the fear of god, man, evil, loss in me.

You’re keeping me on my toes. You’re guiding me through life. You made me a mother three years ago today.

And with every day born, you make me a mother all over again.

The magic of being bilingual.

On the way to gan this morning, Koala spotted a firetruck on the road. Obviously, this made his morning, and for the rest of the way cried out in excitement, “Fire truck! Fire truck woke up! Fire truck is here!”

He was still talking about it as we walked up to the gan door, so to get him moving a little faster, I said, “Why don’t you go inside and tell your friends about the fire truck!”

That got me wondering. Would he tell them in English? Would they understand? Does he talk about fire trucks in Hebrew? Does he get as excited? Does he get more?

We reached the door and I kissed him good bye. He flew from my arms, burst into the room, and with everyone’s attention yelled: “!מכבי אש! מכבי אש”

So there’s that.

In the last few months I’ve noticed more articles about bilingual advantages. Maybe because it’s clearly on my mind daily and maybe because new studies are constantly being reported.

Here’s a quick summary of the science: Why Bilinguals Are Smarter (NYTimes).

Here’s an excellent post about the socio-national-political-academic advantages: Teach your kids English (Times of Israel)

 

 

Moving to Israel? Make sure you Stick Around.

To ulpan or not to ulpan? It’s up to you, but it doesn’t have to end when you leave the musty, dingy premises of the classroom…

Take ulpan home with you with Stick Around.

The story behind Stick Around goes something like this:

“Aaaahhh!!!” my wife yelled, and even though it’s not a word, I could easily understand that she was yelling in English. As a new immigrant she was loving life in Israel, but there was one huge frustrating obstacle: Hebrew.

It’s a rite of passage for olim: the language barrier, climbing over the language barrier, falling backwards behind the language barrier, and so on. We have good days, bad days, and oh-my-god-I’m-tired-of-sounding-crazy days.

So this gingy huz-wife team took their own experience and turned it into a product: Stick Around. For thirty bucks, they’re a set of over 500 Hebrew vocabulary stickers to stick around your house on relevant objects to slowly osmosis your way to recognizable Hebrew skills. And that way… you’ll more likely stick. around.

Good luck – b-hatz-la-cha – בהצלחה