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My wife and I started school today. Actually, my wife started. I mostly just waited in line. The school is called “ulpan” which is a fancy Hebrew word that means something like “Hebrew Language School for Dummies.”

We tried to register all last week, but there were just too many schedule conflicts. We knew that classes started today (on Sunday), so in a desperate attempt to get registered, we finally managed to show up at the “Absorption Center” last Friday. We arrived at about 2:00 pm and were greeted by a friendly, non-English speaking security guard. After suffering through 10 minutes of broken English, broken Hebrew, and broken sign-language, we finally learned that it was closed and that we should return on Sunday at 8:00 a.m.

Today, Sunday, we arrived at 8:20 to register. There were many people in line in front of us. Some spoke French, some English, others spoke Russian. The clerks and teachers, of course, spoke Hebrew and also have pretty good English skills. The line was not that long, but it moved very slowly. Think of the speed of the Los Angeles (so-called) freeway during rush hour. Even better, if you have been to an amusement park, think of the line at the “log jam” ride. This line just wouldn’t move.

Finally, they pulled a bunch of us out of the registration line to take a test to determine our Hebrew skill level. The test was all in Hebrew. It looked like it would be easy for a kindergartener. I figured out where to put my name and phone number. I also managed to answer three questions on the five-page test. I think I may have even answered them correctly.

My wife spent a couple of minutes working the test and finally said that it was ridiculous and that she was just going to start at the bottom level (called aleph). I figured that I would be joining her, but when my test was evaluated, they decided I should be in aleph+. I think that’s because I could spell my name (seriously).

My wife joined her class right away, but aleph+ doesn’t start until next Sunday. So I was given the task of standing in line and registering both of us. Remember the “log jam” line I mentioned earlier? There were only five people in front of me, but it took about an hour. I have a theory about why it took so long. When it was my turn, it only took about 5 minutes. I can speak a bit of Hebrew and the clerk could speak broken-English, so we could communicate. A couple of other English speakers also took about 5 minutes. But try to imagine a French or Russian speaker trying to register with a clerk who only knows Hebrew and broken-English. That takes a bit of time.

I have four children, but only three are living with us. They all started different schools last week. The classes are all in Hebrew, however they get pulled out of the classroom for their own ulpan. So far, it is all going according to plan. They go to school and come back claiming they didn’t learn anything. It might not be a good plan, but it is the plan. I’ve been told that they will be able to communicate within a couple of months. In the meantime, the class room learning that they are missing (or not understanding) will be supplemented via tutoring.

My wife will have class on Monday and Tuesday and then there will be a break for Rosh HaShana. While she’s in class, I think I’ll spend some time re-learning forgotten Hebrew skills — I need to be prepared for the advanced aleph class (where students can spell their names.)

Categories: Hebrew, Israel Tags: , ,
  1. LJC
    2010-09-05 at 6:03 pm

    You’re killing me… seriously. But I’m glad your internet is hooked up and the radio silence is over… what happens when you hit aleph+ and they find you cheated on your test? That you copied someone else’s name/paper, and you really don’t answer to Aleksei???

    • 2010-09-06 at 3:54 am

      As long as it is not a name for a woman, I think I can get away with it.

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