Monday, May 2, 2011


My husband, who was born in Israel, when subjected to listening to me hobnobbing on the phone with various hotels, expressed his disapproval of my pronunciation of “yesh.” I say it really old-school (i.e. learned in Hebrew School): “yeish.” All that did was make me terribly self-conscious about my yesh’s. “Yeish, er, yaish, ahh, yesh!” I would say, while the person on the other end of the line waited – rather impatiently, I imagined – for me to just get out with it already.
After frequent experimentation, I’ve found as a general consensus that Israelis are much more receptive when I at least attempt communication in my broken Hebrew. I’ve gotten my grammar corrected, I’ve had people finish sentences for me, and yes, there is the occasional switch to English (Her name was Harriet! She spoke fluent American English! Of course she’d switch to it!), but in general, I get more patience and less of the feeling that I’m a gullible tourist out of those with whom I at least try.
You can chalk it off to coincidence but... Top occurrences that happened in English that never happened in Hebrew:
  1. From a man: Getting chatted up. “Wherre in the U – S arre you? Oh, I know someone in [insert random place nowhere near where I live here].”
  2. From 2 women: Being told really curtly that they’re busy now and I should call back later.
Top Hebrew-only experiences:
  1. Being told by the guy who I was told could take me around the Golan (who I was theoretically willing to pay to do so) that it would be better for me to rent a car.
  2. Genuine surprise that I’m calling from the US – every single time. With the rather simplistic and highly accented state of my Hebrew, I’m not sure what this says about the minimally acceptable level of Hebrew of Americans in Israel. Nothing good. Then again, at least I won’t be alone.

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