Ulpan Adventures….They’re Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With apologies to Fiona Apple, I’ve been a bad, bad boy. When life gets hectic, the first thing that suffers is Ulpan attendance. It’s a horrible shame because as many of my Israeli friends tell me, learning Hebrew should be right at the top of my priority list (somewhere between showering and trying not to laugh when I answer the phone “AH-lo!“) Once my job went full-time a few months back, I found that I couldn’t attend four long mornings a week and work a full day afterwards. Then the frustration began.

I started a class in the evening but couldn’t deal with the teacher. (I found her to be terrible. I missed my dear Dafna and how she talked to me like I was seven.) Then I tried a class in Holon where my Year Course kids live but there were time issues there as well. Last week, I began a class in the Bat Yam Ulpan, a five minute bus ride from my office. Let’s hope the game of “musical Ulpanim” has come to an end because I’m not willing to study in Dimona, even if I might learn how to say things like “fallout” and “blast zone.”

Anyway, I know Israel is funny. You know Israel is funny. And nowhere is its hilarity on display more than in a Hebrew class with immigrants from foreign countries (and really, what other kind of immigrants are there?)

So without further ado…it’s been too long…LET’S GET IT STARTED!

  • Each language has apparently added its own personal flavor to modern Hebrew, says my new teacher. The suffix “nik” or “ist” comes from Russian. Kibbutznik, stand-upist… The slang comes from Arabic. Walla (wow)! Every dirty word that I won’t write here because my mother is reading. And English? The suffix “er” like “protectsioner (connected person) ” or “mafioner.” Good to see that my people are responsible for the language of organized crime.
  • Does it bother anyone else that there isn’t a word for…well…”that” in Hebrew? How the hell do you compare things in this country? What do you prefer, “zeh” or “zeh”? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear.
  • During our Tu B’Shvat lesson, the teacher talks about Israel’s constant water shortage and how the Kinneret is always in “mee-nus, just like our bank accounts.” Hey, teach! Way to encourage us immigrants to build a life here! Better not close my Citibank account anytime soon. (By the way, this was also the lesson where I learned the word “photosyntheza.“) Keeping with the nature theme, we learn how to say different insects like “jukim (cockroaches)”. Someone just started singing “la cucaracha”, much to the delight of the weird Peruvian chick in the back.
  • Have you ever attended a Tu B’Shvat Seder? I’ve never seen half these fruits in the States! I swear to G-d, I think they just put stuff out to fool the Americans. (“Hey, Shmulik! See that old sponge I put on the tray? Fred and Tanya are EATING it!”)
  • The South American is now teaching the Russian Spanish. That’s arguably the funniest thing I’ve seen since “The Karate Kid” was on Telemundo.
  • Some Russian woman just walked in with a fanny pack (ech omrim “fanny pack? Fenny peck?) That has GOT to be the official sign of middle age. When you see me walking down the street with a fanny pack wrapped around my waist, feel free to invite my loved ones over for an intervatsia.
  • Upon learning the word “tarnegolet (rooster)”, the class erupts into a passionate argument about whether or not there is such a thing as a female rooster, proceeding to re-enact this classic scene in Hebrew.

Who’s having sex with the tarnegol?

More Ulpan adventures coming soon!

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