Category Archives: language

What a difference a decade makes

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Ten years ago today I said good-bye to my family and friends and boarded a plane for the Holy Land. I was about to embark on a journey of life, of discovery, of fear, loathing and love. Ten years on, 3 children, 3 conflicts, 3 homes and a lot poorer I can honestly say that I have some of the best friends I could have ever imagined, I have tasted a life I never would have imagined and I am certainly not the naive small town girl I was back then.

In December 2004 I had been married just 4 months and had lived as a married woman with my husband for 1 week before his visa required he returned to his native land. We had spent the 7 years previous working towards the end goal; marriage, family and a life together in one of our countries.

I arrived to blue skies and bright sunshine, a far cry from the grey, damp, drizzle of the UK and was filled with hope and dreams for our new life together. I was still at the stages of checking my wedding ring finger and admiring the shiny rings. I was excited, but also I was scared. What if I never spoke the language, what if I couldn’t find a job? What if this place was just. too. foreign? It was, not so much now.

Our first few weeks were spent at the apartment of very generous and welcoming friends, sleeping in their spare room and seeing each other every now and then. Husband was, at the time, working as a pastry chef in a newly opened restaurant and that meant long hours, day and night. I was on my own. Luckily our friends lived near Tel Aviv’s large and luscious park and I spent many an afternoon with a book or a journal, marvelling at the sunshine and the parrots and acclimatizing myself to the Middle East. Each morning I rode our friend’s bike to the Ulpan, the Hebrew school for new immigrants (you may remember the comedy of errors that experience was). I met people from around the globe, 1 of which has become a great friend and ally here.

In lieu of my husband the weekends were spent with his friends, one in particular who became my regular date for nights out, coffee shop meetings and cinema trips. Seems like as good a time as any to say thank you, your friendship was and still is invaluable.

We finally found an apartment to rent, close to my newly beloved park and I set about setting up home as a not so smug married. We got a dog, my adored Jesse. We bought furniture and unpacked our belongings from their shipping crates and the first of our UK visitors came to see us in our new life. Once Husband changed jobs his hours became easier and we spent time exploring Tel Aviv, the beach and the benefits of year round sunshine.

There were ups and downs. The language was so hard and the people so aggressive. Many a visit to the supermarket or post office saw me seeking refuge on our balcony, sobbing into Jesse’s fur. But on the up side, Husband and I were finally together, permanently, after our long and international journey. We had a ready-made set of friends from his early army days and I could manage one or two words in Hebrew. We had money in the bank and we wanted to start a family.

A long period of ill-health put paid to the family for a few years but eventually and due to the incredible health system and amazing Doctors here, 4 years later at full health, we welcomed our first child. By this time I was working back in television where I had worked for many years in the UK. Things were on the up. We had a bigger apartment and a wider network of friends including my gorgeous British girlfriends who continue to provide me with laughter and wine and a shoulder to cry on.

By 2010 we were a family of 5. The arrival of twins sent us packing to the suburbs and a child friendly home which is where we reside now. The TV career took a back seat as I faced the challenges of motherhood and three very small people. So now what?

As 2014 comes to a close and I look back on this year and the ten years I have spent here I see that we are on the edge of a new chapter. What that will be, we still don’t know but it seems a fitting time to take stock and count our blessings; our friends, our children, our health and our love for each other that has carried us through the upheaval of moving countries and facing the challenges that a life in Israel brings.

Thank you for your loyal following of my ramblings through 2014 and I’ll see you on the other side, hungover and ready to begin the next stage of the journey.

champagne-toast

AEIOU I sometimes cry

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wmu-g-gb7You have probably noticed that that slogan t shirts are back in style after a 30 year break.  Yes it was the 80’s when we sported ‘Choose Life’, ‘Just say NO’ and ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirts and yes that was indeed 30 years ago.  Hmmm.  I had a particularly fetching pale pink cut off t-shirt (also in vogue again) with ‘Ne Touchez Pas’ written across it.  Rather inappropriately for a pre-pubescent 11 year old to be wearing a t-shirt like this, especially when 2 hand prints were printed above the words – you can guess where.  What was my Mother thinking?!  (she doesn’t speak French so maybe she just didn’t get it…?!).

I have been eyeing up on the style blogs a few sweatshirts and t-shirts with cool slogans printed across, my personal favourite being, ‘I have more issues than Vogue’.  Luckily here in Israel there are also slogan printed items to purchase, such as this beauty.

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In case you can’t read it, it says;

MIANI DANCELIKE

EUN DMC

MIX EVERY  CNES IMASTER

FLADN

ANO TRNASHS GOYTAR LIKG

NIRVANA

THE MUSEUM THEY DESERNE

Nope it still makes absolutely no sense but FLADN might become my word of the week.You can’t beat a bit of clothing tat off a market at the best of times but I have found that in a non-English speaking country the opportunity for spelling, grammar, general nonsensical and inappropriate English lends a whole new meaning to the word tat.  Take for example the velour child’s track suit with ‘ blow me’ written across the bum.  Obscene, offensive or just plain hilarious?

The reason for my sudden interest in the written word? I am currently trying my best to teach number 1 son to read English.  Although he understands and speaks English, his default language is Hebrew and once he gets to school in September he will be learning to read and write in Hebrew.  My plan is to get him to learn the basics before he goes to school so that he isn’t confused learning to write both languages at the same time.

We are working with educational work books and flash cards but to liven things up a bit and to keep him interested we sometimes do our lessons on the hoof.  I like to call them field trips but they are often errands that I have to run and I take him along with me and package it as an English lesson.  For example in the mall we stand outside the stores with English names and he spells them – ‘Golf’ and ‘Fox’ were easy but we looked like we were casing the joint outside ‘Honigman’ we were there so long.

There are a few difficulties using the everyday world of Israel to teach English as there are soooo many mistakes.  Menus for example that are sometimes so ridiculous that you have to read it 5 times before understanding what it actually is.  ‘Egg Plant on the Fire’, ‘Respect the Chicken’.  I know that Israel is not alone in their translating skills and I am more than certain that if a British restaurant tried to translate their menu to French or Chinese or Hebrew with the aid of only Google Translate the results would be equally amusing.

IMG_1538My personal favourite was discovered a couple of weeks ago when no. 1 son and I went on a field trip (I needed to go to the chemist) and we found a puzzle in the $1 store (the clue is in the price).  This was the piece for the letter E.  Not terribly helpful although he does remember the letter E by saying ‘it’s not a hippo, it’s an elephant’ so in a round about way it worked.

I am finding the whole teaching lark rewarding and frustrating in equal amounts.  I am stunned when he recognises words and letters, knowing that I am the one who taught him, but I do worry that I am teaching him the ‘wrong’ way and just knowing the letters and spelling out the words may not be enough.  I am hopeful that the use of song, signs and the odd slogan t-shirt will aid his learning although our field trips will bypass restaurants and market stalls for the time being.

Where ever I lay my hat?

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It’s a big year chez nous, 2014.  It’s the year that husband turns 40, it’s the year that no. 1 son starts school, it’s the year that we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and it is 10 years this year since I moved to this sometimes not-so holy Holy Land.  How did that happen?  Where did the time go and why after all this time have I still got one foot (and a half) pointing towards home?

Home, where is that?  After all I counted London as home but I lived there only 9 years. While we were travelling I called our tent ‘home’ and I was perfectly happy that we could pick that home up and take it where ever the whim took us.  If home is where the heart is, do I have 2 homes? And more importantly if you have 2 homes do you ever feel truly ‘at home’ in one of them.

This time last year I was 100% going home (to the UK that is).  I was tired of the difficulties of living in a different language, different culture, different religion  I was exhausted.  I was brow beaten and sick of being an outsider.  No longer at the top of my career but instead unable to find work that suited my skills, language or salary expectations.  Most of all I was tired of hearing people say, ‘make more of an effort to settle’, ‘maybe if your Hebrew was better, why don’t you speak it more’, sick of feeling like nothing I did was enough.  Was it all in my head?  Maybe, but I think that as an ex-pat, especially one who moves to a new language and a different culture you always ask yourself, ‘do I fit in?’ followed quickly in my case with ‘why should I have to?’.

So what now?  It’s 2014, a New Year.  Has anything changed?  Honestly I don’t know.  As in the previous 9 years I have good weeks and bad weeks, good days and bad days although the bad is less in occurrence and in intensity. I feel at home here although it is not, nor do I think it will ever be, ‘home’.  I hope to go back some day, whether it’s in 2014 or in a box in the hold of an aeroplane.  If someone would wave a magic wand or give me a winning lottery ticket to set us up in the UK for a couple of years to see how we would like it, I’d go in a shot.  But it’s not just about me.  It’s about my lovely husband who would go where ever I wished if it made me happy (even though he would not really want to go).  It’s about my children, my Israeli children who, like it or not only know this as home and speak to me and each other in a language that I often don’t understand.  As they get older the move gets more difficult, and the looming start of school underlines that fact.

Over on a blog I follow, Expatriate Life,  Judy has often talked about repatriation, about the challenges of repatriating after time away and I think it is this repatriation fear that stopped me from packing our bags and running this time last year.  Really, what do I know about the UK now.  Have I perhaps become too Israeli for England but too English for Israel?  Only time will tell as yet again we write our pros and cons list, we look for options were we to move back.  The key, I think, is no regrets, no looking back in anger, no what ifs or maybe.  When all is said and done as long as our family is together we are home.

The 3 legged camel

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On our recent Passover trip to the desert we stayed in a campsite. It was not the kind of campsite I am used to staying in, it was what I would term ‘glamping’ (glamour camping).  No we didn’t all don high heels and dressed for dinner (only the boys), but because the tents were huge domed affairs with tiled floors, mattresses and duvets and although we had communal bathrooms they were cleaner and way more spacious than my bathroom at home.  The real treat of this place was the view.  Perched on the edge of a canyon it overlooked the valley below and out towards the mountains of the Negev.

view of canyon

On our first evening, weary from a long car trip with small childers we all sat and watched as dusk fell and the light changed the canyon walls from pale yellow to pink.  From down the valley we saw a line of camels walking past.  Stopping occasionally to check out the sparse greenery they followed each other until they were out of sight.  Lagging behind somewhat came a second line, moving slower and in less order than their predecessors these camels had one leg bent at the knee and bound with bandages.  At first we thought the leader was injured but as more went by, we realised that these camels must be the runners as they were all tied, presumably to stop them escaping.  Bringing up the rear was a man with a stick.  Where they were going is unclear as they were moving away from the tiny village, perhaps they liked to sleep al fresco, far from man’s encroachment on their desert dwelling.

Apparently this is called hobbling and is not just to keep the camels from moving too far from their owner but is also used for the more aggressive camels to keep them in order and if need be, to attend to them when they are injured.  They were moving slowly but they didn’t seem too bothered by their hindrance, perhaps because they didn’t have a choice but to get on with it.  To our eyes it looked terribly cruel but the bedouins and the ancient tribes have been using this method throughout the centuries to train and control their camels.

The camels became a symbol of our holiday for me.  Holidaying as we always do with a group of good friends and their children I often feel that I too am hobbled.  No, nobody ties me up (except the childers as they all demand simultaneous carrying, cuddling, play fighting), my hobble is due to my inability to fully speak the language.  Always one second (or 10 minutes) behind the conversation as my rusty computer whirrs the translation to English I find myself becoming more mute as time passes.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to keep up.  All our friends are amazing I should add and speak to me in English, they don’t ever intentionally ostracize me but the chat is obviously in their mother tongue and when plans are being made,  decisions being mulled I rely on my ever patient husband to translate when I lose the thread and oftentimes I stay out of it.  This is a big mistake and I fully accept that it is a problem of my making.  If you are in my situation you probably already know this, and if you don’t, take it from me, make sure you are involved as ignorance is certainly not bliss and inclusion as an expat is always the goal, in every situation.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being hobbled in everyday life in a foreign country.  When you are not used to the customs and culture or religion, when newspapers, magazines,  even signs are either illegible or take perseverance, when you don’t get the jokes and can’t join in the chat about pop culture because watching local TV and listening to local radio requires effort, remaining ignorant and therefore disabled in the short-term is the easiest option.  This however is a slippery slope and in the long run leads to isolation, frustration and eventually self-confidence takes a nose dive.

Like the camels we learn to live with it.  Like most situations in life, human beings have the ability to adapt and acclimate to just about anything.  The question  has to be though, when does it stop being so difficult, when does the penny finally drop and full absorption take place?  If it doesn’t, does that mean it’s time to pack up and go back to where we can fully understand the humour, the nuances, the slang?  I liked walking with 4 legs and when 1 is tied at the knee it’s hard sometimes not to just get tired and fall down.

 

We stayed at a wonderful place called Lev Ha Midbar (Heart of the Desert) http://www.levhamidbar.co.il/ in Tzukim about 90 minutes north of Eilat.

Trying to make sense of it all

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When you quasi speak in a different language on a day-to-day basis there are words or phrases that you find yourself using a lot, often as a bridge to the next bit of vocab that you have momentarily forgotten.  For example when I lived in France I always used ‘je pense’ (I think), even though most of the time I wasn’t thinking I was just warbling away and je pense filled any embarrassing gaps when I had run out of nonsense to spout.  In Hebrew I use ‘efshar’ a lot (which literally translated means, it’s possible/is it possible?) .  Efshar the bill, efshar to change this, efshar to pass, efshar to sit, you see you can use it in all sorts of situations and being the born and raised polite Brit that I am I find it difficult to just command as most Israelis do – ‘efshar the salt?’ instead of ‘give me the salt’.

My absolute favourite word in Hebrew is stam.  It doesn’t have the best music nor a terribly interesting meaning but you can use it in so many ways and there just isn’t a word to compare it to in English.

– the book was stam (OK)

– stam stam (only joking)

– it was stam (just) not interesting

– how’s your day? stam (OK)

– why did you do that? stam (no reason)

– I stam (just) wanted to say hi

Shame there’s no word like this in English.

There are a few words I like, simply because of their music, balagan (mess) is a good one and my eldest has just introduced me to achi ahoove alye which I think means, what I love the best – go on, say it out loud, it’s a beauty.  The other new phrase he says a lot is calay caloola which I think means easy peasy – love it.  Go on, try it, calay caloola, achi ahoove alye.  Having a bilingual house means that we also have a whole set of verbs and vocab that have no meaning in either English or Hebrew and yet we all understand, then on top of that we have the enormous amount of nonsense words that 2 year olds talk plus words my Dad invented when we were children  – anyone for a pa?(bath)

After my last trip to the UK I came home armed with CDs of kids songs in English.  Having based my entire Hebrew language learning on the kid’s songs that are played on repeat in the car, I decided it was time to teach the childers  English with some sing a long songs.  Beauties like Donkey Riding and Yankee Doodle are now top requests although I am not convinced how much usable English they are learning, ‘ what’s macaroni?’, ‘its a type of pasta’, ‘so why was the feather called macaroni?’, ‘umm’.  Then there’s the part which all English parents have to deal with, ‘ why did the goose throw the old man down the stairs?’ and my personal favourite ‘what’s whipped?’, ‘what’s soundly?’ ‘so why did she whip her children soundly’.  What is it with the English nursery rhymes that they are either nonsense or downright mean?

Recently number 1 son and I have had words because of language and in particular certain words that in Israel are not offensive but in English are, his Grandmother will have a fit.  He recently started saying ‘sit’ and it didn’t take a genius to work out that what he was actually saying was shit.  The good news is he didn’t learn it from me (he’d say shit not sit if he’d learnt it from me), and as shit, bullshit and even the dreaded f word really have no meaning in Israel other than for emphasis, it’s just a matter of time before I must have the conversation again to explain that there are certain words  that ‘we’ just don’t say.  A minefield indeed and this in a country where this ad for a teenage clothing store is on every billboard and bus stop.  tnt ad

 My childers will be potty mouthed urchins in English and as 50% of the time I don’t understand them in Hebrew they could well be the same in Hebrew.  Ah, the trials of an expat mother.

Have a little patience

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Savlanoot, one of the first words they teach you in the Ulpan – the first stop for all keen new arrivals to Israel’s fair shores.  Savlanoot means patience and as most Israelis will admit, is something you don’t see much evidence of on the streets here.  Remember the driving post?  Why wait patiently when you can lean on your horn, shout, ram into the back of someone, why go the correct but long way round when you can drive the wrong way up a one way street?  Same applies in supermarket lines (the supermarket being just about the only place you will see a line), I have been crushed by an old lady’s trolley in her haste to make it to the check out first, what did I say to her? “savlanoot”.

Recently they have installed self check outs in some of the big supermarkets here.  More fool the supermarkets.  Trolleys full of weekly shops bumping and grinding into one another whilst impatient shoppers try to figure out why the machines won’t work – you can’t fit a trolley full of shopping on a small shelf “unexpected item in the bagging area” – yes that’s the shopper’s bored small child trying to get into the bag. There is a sign saying no more than 15 items but is basically ignored.  A self check out requires patience at the best of times; the computer gets confused, the user gets confused, how do you delete something youscanned twice by accident ?- add a dash of I know better than the check out girl (or boy), a sprinkling of disregard for those queuing behind them and a gigantic dollop of impatience and you have supermarket meltdown.  Wish I would remember this and just go to the regular check out.

Unlike the word patience in English, savlanoot is most often used as an instruction eg all 3 kids want to be first out/in the car/house/bath/fridge so yelling “savlanoot” is rather like “hang on” or “wait” in English.  Obviously I never yell at my 3 childers, I tell them calmly, whilst at their level, in even tones.

On arrival in Israel I had bags of savlanoot, I could have shared it around I was so well endowed with savlanoot.  Not so much 8 years on.  Obviously I can’t lay the blame entirely on Israeli culture, 3 very small childers stretches anyones patience.  Mix the two together and you have me as I am today.  Not an ounce of savlanoot, in fact I wonder if anger management classes would be of benefit.  My new look blog site is the case in point of my new-found impatience.  Having fiddled around for at least an hour trying to change the site’s background, font colour etc I basically got annoyed with it (myself) for not being able to do what I wanted, I ran out of patience and what you see is how it turned out.    Comments/advice gratefully received.

Nonsense to the Vernacular

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Not satisfied with tweeting, blogging, facebooking, linking in and pinning interest we are now taking on the vocabulary and manner of speech we use whilst typing which by the way we have usually picked up from the TV.

Here are the top 5 that I use a lot in conversation and probably shouldn’t:

  1. So, since when have we started a sentence with so?  Is everything we say a status update? meredithActually maybe it is.
  2. Who knew that ‘who knew?’ can come at the end of a sentence.
  3. Really?  My particular favourite. Not as an incredulous ‘really’ when being told something incredulous.  No.  This ‘really’ is deadpan and ironic. Think Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy… (no don’t, she’s annoying)
  4. The thing is when did we stop saying the thing is and start saying here’s the thing, and at the start of a sentence.  Rather like, ‘So…’, ‘Here’s the thing…’ does make you think a story/one liner is coming but actually it’s just a little conversational bridge. Who knew?  Oops, there it is again.
  5. Just saying – I think I may have used that a number of times in these very pages.

Just like my 2 year old says, ‘I simply don’t believe it’, which is obviously not the usual patter of a 2 year old, we take on so much from TV these days that it’s like we’re living in a soap opera (which I have been told on a number of occasions by various people and not on account of the way I speak).

Here’s my idea – not sure how well it’ll work, but how about taking an era and speaking thus (you see, threw that one in).  My Uncle and Aunt have a lovely way of saying ‘quite’ when they agree with something, I always intend to take this word on as part of my vocab but always forget and say ‘exactly’ instead. I also might start saying ‘five and twenty to’ instead of ‘twenty five to’ or ‘35’ just to sound more queenly (and like my Granny) – are you still with me?  I’m talking about telling the time…Whatever.

Reasons to Celebrate #6: Kids

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london busLike the number 19 bus our children arrived all at once, none for ages and then 3 arrived within 2 short years.  Four and a half years on, this in essence means,

  1. I cannot speak on the phone during their waking hours
  2. I seldom have waking hours outside of theirs
  3. I am always the mother being tutted at/sympathised with on the park
  4. I have single handedly filled a land fill with nappies
  5. My house has a faint whiff of pee (or maybe that’s just my imagination)

2 year old twins are the stuff of parenting challenges.  As one is safely ensconced in a pram/car seat another escapes, as one stops shouting for Mummy, water, food, toilet the other starts.  It’s a non-stop attention shop in my house.  Now that the twins can also speak, the noise in the house can reach dangerous levels, add to that the fact they so far speak a different language to mine makes it a challenge with a twist.  It’s one thing understanding the noise in English, quite another when its coming at you in a mix of English, Hebrew and baby talk – ‘what are you saying?’

There are a few key words necessary to know when entering my domain if you are not a Hebrew speaker.

  1. Mime – (water) sounds like mine so at any point they could be referring to either water or a belonging of theirs
  2. Cacky – (poo) not to be mistaken with cracker (cacka) one of the twins’ favourite food stuffs.  Cacky comes with a smell or a squatting toddler
  3. Od – (more) often said 15 times over at a gradually louder level
  4. Zay oo – (finished/enough) usually heard on the park when the swing/slide is scarily high or when a plate is sent skimming across the table to the floor.
  5. Die – (stop) don’t think too literally on this one, ‘Mummy, die!’ ‘die die die’ can be heard repeatedly from all 3 kids directed at a parent or each other.

My children came arguably late on in life, the first at 35 and I have wondered on occasion if this extreme parenting would have been easier had I been 25.  Do 29 year olds get as tired as 39 year olds after a day with the childers? As I remember it, I was having a blast at 29 and was far from ready for the responsibility of children so I don’t regret the timing, just wish my physical make up in my mid to late 20s could have stuck around until after the teething, the diving to catch one heading into danger and the pushing of a pram carrying 42 kilos was over.

My kids make me see things through fresh eyes, ‘Mummy you do nothing at home’ said the 4 year old when we were discussing what people did for jobs the other day.  They are also a constant reminder of my shortcomings, ‘how does a satellite stay in the sky?’, and a catalyst for self-improvement, ’build us a house out of these boxes, we need to recycle’.  They introduce me to the otherwise unknown or forgotten world of Balamory, snail farms and fairy princesses and for all those reasons and more, they are my most important reason to celebrate as they are the greatest achievement in my 40 years.  To top it all I also get to be carried along by their excitement which is sure to surpass my own on my big day.

Reasons to Celebrate # 3: New Skills

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It’s a  fact that the skill of language learning is a child’s game; the younger you learn  the easier it is.  Children’s brains are like sponges and age unfortunately hardens the sponge, making it way more difficult for languages to sink in.  At 18 I briefly lived in France and worked for Eurocamp, a British company that employs students to look after clean up after their clients on enormous campsites in Europe.  I learnt French until age 16 so had a very basic grasp, and I did pass the Eurocamp language test so I reckon that made me more than competent to deal with the campsite management and local community.  I managed quite well and following a brief fling with the campsite chef (only in France does a campsite have a chef), I was able to converse quite adequately.

My Hebrew teacher

13 years later when I moved to Israel the sponge had dried a little too much for another language and 8 years on I still struggle.  Part of the blame has to lie on the shoulders of one of the first experiences I had here.  Fresh off the plane I enrolled in the State’s language school, The Ulpan.  I was convinced that going to this school would be like attending lectures at college, learn something new with lots of people in the same  situation.  Wrong.  Think primary school without a common language.  Add to that the bizarre twist of a film crew making a documentary about us. If any of you have learnt a new language as an adult you know that there is nothing more shameful than having to do it in front of an audience, bad enough that my fellow students were witness to my ‘Hello my name is Katie and I am from England’ but to have a camera in my face and a boom swinging above my head took it to a whole new level. Those who eventually saw the documentary series they made, The Ulpan (here’s a clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMtZ2eJFD-A), will know that we also had a neurotic teacher who, whether for the cameras or because she was crazy, felt it fit to burst into tears in front of the class, storm out of the classroom in a fit of anger or smother her students with kisses and bear hugs.  I am English – we don’t hug random strangers and we certainly don’t cry in public.  Suffice to say I finished the course with little or no knowledge of the language, an inherent suspicion of all Israeli women over 50 and due to the high turn-over of students (98% have since left the country), very few friends.

My husband has an aptitude for languages having lived in many foreign parts in his childhood and has always proclaimed he can speak French, which without a shadow of a doubt is a lie: A few years ago he travelled to Moscow to cater a high end dinner (he’s a pastry chef) and told the organisers that he spoke ‘kitchen’ French.  Being able to pronounce baguette and croissant does not constitute speaking French but as they had said their chefs spoke Russian and only a couple knew a little French he figured he’d get by. ‘Passez moi le spoon et le bowl sil vous plait’ apparently worked for the duration of the experience as it turned out the Russians had also been telling porkies, his speaking English in a faux French accent had them thoroughly fooled.  Think ‘Allo Allo’ in Russia. It does rather go to prove that the major talent behind speaking a language is confidence and that is a skill honed over a lifetime.

My confidence in speaking the language has taken some knocks in my eight years here; asking for a watermelon sandwich in a café is not one of my finest moments in my early days.  There have been great swathes of time when I have refused to speak a word in anything but English for fear of looking ridiculous.  As part of my coming-of-age quest to right some wrongs and make some changes I went back to (a different) Hebrew school earlier this year and lo and behold discovered that I have actually mastered it to a certain degree and I am  proud of my skill to learn such a difficultt language at such a late stage.  I give all credit to my son who is 4 so you can imagine the level of my vocabulary; still, in the right environment I have grasped the skill well enough to get by. Not only can I speak to a large extent these days I can also read enough to know when the  translation is wrong on the TV subtitles.  I have even figured out how to open books and magazines back to front which sounds easy but believe me it takes some figuring out.  The confidence part might take another 8 years so until then I will remain playground mute and only speak Hebrew when absolutely necessary.