Monday, September 24, 2007

Hallas, Zeyo, That's It, Ya'll...

My two months of intensive Hebrew came to a sputtering close today as I sat staring at a Hebrew text, chewing the eraser of my pencil, and scratching my little goose brain, wondering why I didn't recognize about every other word in each sentence.  "Oh, god, this hurts...", I thought to myself in English.  I looked over at the hyper-active, Korean chic next to me who hasn't been able to pronounce a single word correctly for the past two months, but never fails to know everything at all times and makes a dramatic effort to extend this little factoid to everyone around her, including me.  This is because I am her direct competition in the class, the only other student that generally gets things the first time.  Meanwhile, looking at the page before me, the precious Hebrew characters I've been eating, sleeping and breathing all summer resembled nothing more than a jumble.   I knew that if I just allowed myself to be patient, then something would start to make sense.  In this instant, however, I regretted not getting enough sleep last night. I also regretted the fact that I drank too much tea this morning.  Again, I scoffed at the no-bathroom rule that was imposed on us by the proctor of the exam, an older woman with orange hair who fascistically took it upon herself to dramatically relieve us of our backpacks and cellphones before the exam began.
 
In my last ditch effort to make some sense of the text that would determine my final grade, I decided to ask the test attendent to pronounce a few words for me.  Upon hearing these words, I replied in Hebrew: "But we did not learn any of these words in the class." 
 
"Of course you didn't," she snappishly remarked in her native language.  "You are suppossed to figure out the meaning. That's why it's called Reading Comprehension."
 
"Oh...right," I said, secretly imagining what would happen if I started throwing things.  "I didn't realize that it's my job to comprehend words that I have never seen before."
 
"Well, that's what you have to do.  Do you understand?," she countered.  I had to give it to this woman, she is the First Place Winner of the "Snappish Native Israeli" prize this week.  And here, I thought I was fresh out...
 
"Thank you so much for your help," I replied in a very passive-aggressive tone that I once used with the majority of my high school administrators.  Only a girl from the South can adroitly employ this technique and not get slapped or get kicked out of school for doing so.  I suddenly had a flash back to my Valedictorian days, which were consistently marred by my inability to simply walk a straight line.  I have a chronic rebellion disorder, and I need to work on this, I thought to myself with a chuckle.  Meanwhile, as I slumped back to my seat, I had to wonder why I wasn't being tested on my ability to communicate clearly in Hebrew. After all, didn't that conversation have some value in the external rubic for assessing my so-called knowledge of this language?  Yeesh.
 
"Good luck," the test monitor called after me.  I seriously wanted to kick her...
 
After twenty more minutes of staring at the text, the words began to unscramble and things began to make sense. At the very least, I recognized nouns and verbs, which allowed me to bullshit my way through the answers.  I flew through the rest of the exam and patiently reminded myself just to do my best and stop beating myself up for not knowing every single word.  I'm not a linguist.  I didn't come here to be an expert in Hebrew.  I know what I know.  I have nothing to prove...
 
The good news is that it's over. It's over, and the next leg of my journey is now upon me.  I've added another language to my repetoire, and somehow I'm simply at a loss for words.

7 comments:

VJ said...

Congrats N, & I hope you'll have fun at the borders. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Laura said...

After spending 7 months learning Czech and now 2.5 months speaking it every day as my job, I'm still amazed at how freakin' hard it is! One would think that hearing something every day, it would just start to magically make sense. The truth is that I have no idea what people are saying when they use words I've never heard or speak so fast I can barely make out the words themselves. Usually a simple "slow down, please" and attempting to rephrase what was just said works pretty well. But knowing that we have limits and just trying to work within those limits while at the same time expanding them is not easy. Learning a new langauge isn't just that, it's learning a new way to think. Anyway, *I* think that it's cool you're learning two at once.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

vj,
I always enjoy reading your comments, so please don't stop!
however...
I am just curious...when do you sleep? your comments seem to be posted in the "wee" hours of the morning!
cheers & good luck to you too, vj!

Namaste said...

when does VJ sleep?

VJ said...

VJ has a light sleeping schedule due to many extraneous factors. Have fun at the reception N! Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

gyal said...

Hi Namaste,
I can't really remember how I found your blog some months ago but just wanted to let you know that I have been following your journey, and while I don't know you, it has been quite amazing to read. Especially for a person like me, more of an armchair traveler than anything, and also someone unable to do what you do - get out there and engage, as you say. Thank you for sharing with us. :)

Jay said...

Aaack! The exam proctor from gehenna. Bravo to you for sweating it out, and congratulations to your friend on her wedding. Do enjoy yourself these next few weeks. You've certainly earned them. -- J