I must be crazy! - I started learning Hebrew – don’t ask me why, but I’ll tell you anyway!
My history of languages is that I learned 2 Hebrew words when I was 5 years old, because some Israeli’s visiting my parents told me the words ‘toda’ = ‘thank you’ & ‘mech’ = ‘moss’ (this word I remembered wrong because these days I found out that moss = techaw – must have sounded like mech to me when I was 5)
Later on I started to learn Latin in school (for 3 years) at the age of ten, & English at age of 13 – I was a very lazybone in learning then so I had to stop learning Latin & had very bad scores in English in the first year. – But then the British invasion of Pop & Rock came over to Germany (early 70ies) & I got so interested in song texts, that my English improved very much. – so the first time that I was really interested in learning another language was incited by Rock’n`Roll – & of course I wanted to understand every word, my Rock & Pop heroes were singing..
When I was 15 I found an old Spanish teaching book of my father, with only pictures in comic style & then the appropriate spanish words under it. – No translation words used, but it really worked – you could learn the words just by watching these drawings. – This incitede me that much for Spanish that I even worked in school holidays in a factory to get me the money to buy a really modernly Spanish language course (by Langenscheidt) – with books, 16 language records (CD’s & PC weren’t invented yet – not even MC’s) –
I remember exactly that I learned until lesson 13 in that Spanish course, & then did leave it for a while, because in my youth I had ‘better’ things to do - - I always had in mind, that I would continue it sooner or later, but then lent it to a befriended young couple, who wanted to visit Spain & never got it back.
I also had started a voluntary French course in my school at age 17, but left after few hours, because I found out, that I’d had also to learn for it & French pronounciations seemed hard to me.
My father had also an old fashioned Hebrew teaching book & at age about 19 I wanted to start learning that - & I really did it for a very short time – I somehow stopped at page 2, because by then I recognized, that I had to learn all the strange looking Hebrew letters, train them to write & read them & exactly I learned about 4 Hebrew letters by then, which also later on stuck to my memory, because they were easy to remember:
There was the ‘Lamed’ ‘L’ which is easy to recognize, because it looks like the wave of a whip or a hook & the ‘Shin’ which can be a ‘S’, but also a ‘Sh’, which looks like a crown or a ‘W’ – the ‘Mem’ = ‘M’ looks like a rectangular box - - the ‘Resh’ = ‘R’ – that’s just one line upwards & turning smooth to the left - & the ‘Jod’ a comma like sign, which could be something like a ‘ee’ or ‘ia’ or whatever..
Equipped with the knowledge of these 5 letters I could easyly read Hebrew words like ‘Shalom’, ‘Jerusalem’ & ‘Israel’ , but not so much more indeed..
So later on Language learning was in that time for long deserted – but then I became very francophil, because of all the culture & especially literature I got fascinated of & intrigued in – I read books & poetry from Victor Hugo to Balzac, as well as from Rimbaud, Baudelaire, J.K. Huysmans but also parts of Sartre, Boris Vian & Zola.
So at age 30 I got the idea, that I have to learn French – So I visited an evening school (‘Volkshochschule’) with 2 evenings a week for 3 semesters – not that I can talk French now, but I at least can understand the rude meaning of a French newspaper at least & know the pronounciation well. – but still far away to be able to read French literature fluently – I have Baudelaires ‘Fleur du mal’ in French & I read some of them in origing (with a little help of my French dictionary) – So finally the ability to read some Baudelaire poems were the result of 1 & a half year learning French ..
So years passed by making me older & older making my abiltiy of learning slower & slower – I got meanwhile language course on CD in French & Spain – I really liked to be fluent in all these languages, but it’s so hard to stay on the track
Back to Hebrew – about 7 weeks ago I got the idea to continue my learning , after my father’s old Hebrew learning book fell by chance to my hands again – it couldn’t be so heard, learning these strenge letters – hm..
But because I’m a lazybone & if ever starting it, would leave it sooner or later – I looked for a course in evening school (VHS) – yes there was one – but they had already started last September – the second part starting in 2 weeks. – Could I dare to join there? – Could I succeed in learning in 2 weeks, what they had learned in a half year? – I called the teacher of that class & he told me that from those who had started that course only a few were still remaining – he sent me the lessons they already had via e-mail – they had already learned about 200 words & of course I had to learn the Hebrew Aleph-Beth, which I learned then in about a week in long evening hours of writing training – but the learning of hebrew words was harder, than I had expected – it’s not enough to learn the words, but you have also to learn each single letter it’s made of. – Hebrew got 2 different ‘t’, 2 different ‘ch’, 2 different ‘k’ & 3 ‘s’ sounding vocals – how can you remember which of them in used in a word, not the problem with the use of ‘ayin’ & aleph for the same case – you have to much more concentrate on every single letter than in our familiar latin based languages – I could learn 200 French words in the time I need for 50 Hebrew words. –
So of course I was slightly lagging behind on my first lesson there, but now after 4 weeks I’m about their level already – they’re still a bit quicker in recognizing the hebrew words in reading (because every Hebrew word is a puzzle – because only the consonants are written down – you have to guess the vocals & a lot of prepositions melt together with a word – etc. etc.)
But funny & astounding are the reactions of people when I tell them that I learn Hebrew, - from shoulder shrugging to ‘are crazy?’ – ‘what do you want with that dead language’ – ‘why?!!!’, ‘there are better languages to learn ‘ – ‘there’s no use in learning Hebrew!’ – ‘you’d better learn Chinese!’ – ‘confess – you must be Jewish?’ –
Hm – when I learned French or Spain etc. – no-one asked me questions like that & got only positive reactions, no-one asked about my motivations. – Even my nephew who learned Japanese got mainly positive reactions, a friend learned Greek – but that’s only ‘Interesting!’ & gets no negative critics..
Is it that they see no future in Hebrew language, because they see Israel as already dead or not yet real existing or as a mistake of history? –
It seems for a lot of people highly suspicious but for me it’s really fun to learn glimpses of that old language, to dive in it’s mysteries & make these hyroglyphical seeming words transparent to my understanding. – yes – but it’s still a long way to go & learning in my age is harder than I had thought. –
If ever you see written this diary in Iwrit, than you’ll know, that I have succeeded!