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Learning Hebrew - F*cking with Clusters

About Learning Hebrew

Previous Entry Learning Hebrew Apr. 12th, 2031 @ 02:07 pm
So, in preparation for an upcoming trip to Israel, I'm trying to learn enough Hebrew to read street signs and not get ripped off by cab drivers*.

I've studied Japanese, so I'm very familiar with "you should just know to do this" type rules (counting objects in Japanese is an exercise for the brave). That said, Hebrew assumes you know the vocabulary before you know the letters. Sure, they technically have glyphs for vowels and diacritics to identify hard/soft consonants... but no one uses them in real life. You are expected to know. So, basically, if I don't recognize a word (which is true for approximately 100% of words), I'm going to have to go through every permutation of vowels and consonant types I can remember until the person I'm talking to figures it out. If I was learning to write as well, I would have to handle the fact that there are consonants pronounced *identically* to each other (as in, they are indistinguishable to native speakers) but encoded with different letters in different words.

This puts the Italians' lack of being able to understand me until I improved my accenting to shame. On the positive side, there are only 27 characters and many of them resemble capital Greek letters enough that they're free to learn :) I still can't do the 'kh' with any consistency, but it's coming along.

This is day 1. I'll likely feel better about the whole escapade on day two. :)

* Also, my advisor, who is fluent in Hebrew, offered to write me signs to take with me... which made me think of WWII orphans waiting at underground platforms with names and directions pinned to their jackets. So, basically, I'm learning beginner's Hebrew to avoid being eaten at a railway station.
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From:nasu_dengaku
Date:April 12th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
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I'm trying to learn enough Hebrew to read street signs and not get ripped off by cab drivers*.

The best way to do that is to buy a map. :-) For Tel Aviv the bus station offers maps in Hebrew or Russian, but you can go to a bookstore and get an English Map.
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From:avani
Date:April 12th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
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I'm definitely going to be getting one of those too :) I'll mostly be in Haifa, which is English-heavy.

I don't have much planned outside of work this trip. Is Tel Aviv worth spending time in vs. more time in Jerusalem? Any experience you found particularly powerful in either city (or really, anywhere in Israel?)
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From:nasu_dengaku
Date:April 12th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
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Jerusalem is a very unique (and kind of fucked-up) place.

Tel-Aviv is cool, but not that unique relative to other major cities around the world.

Haifa -- the gardens are awesome, but otherwise the city is unremarkable.

The city of Akko (Acre) near Haifa is interesting though.
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From:fabricant
Date:April 12th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
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I found Jerusalem much more striking than Tel Aviv, during the brief time I spent in both places. Tel Aviv struck me as much like any other large, prosperous, tourist heavy coastal city. Nice place, beautiful beaches, probably has great nightclubs, but not really unique. Jerusalem, on the other hand, really is unique. Just wandering through the city is an experience.
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From:bennj
Date:April 12th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
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I have a set of basic Hebrew Language tapes if you want these. I also have some basic language learning materials which would/could help with sounding things out. Otherwise, everyone under the age of 30 speaks English and (in my experience) is quite helpful with giving directions.
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From:avani
Date:April 12th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
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I'd love to borrow the language tapes, assuming that they're not actually tapes since I don't have a player anymore :P
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From:arisrabkin
Date:April 12th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
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My recollection is that it's pretty easy to get around using English only. I think all the street signs we saw when I was there were trilingual English-Arabic-Hebrew. (Or sometimes, English-Russian-Hebrew).

So you probably don't need to worry about the written language and just need to learn the phrases for the places you're going to be going.
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From:rose_garden
Date:April 14th, 2011 05:09 am (UTC)
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The no-vowels thing is true for Biblical Hebrew, but in Modern Hebrew I've noticed that they often put in as many letters as possible for vowels -- probably a holdover from Yiddish, where certain letters really are vowels.

vuv == "oh" or "oo"
yud == "ee"
Two yuds == "ay"
aleph is sometimes used like the letter "a"

I don't know Hebrew but I know the letters and I was able to read a lot of signs once I got the hang of letters being used as vowels. Reading signs was just for fun, though, because English was fine for almost everything. (French came in handy too, but that's because I ended up staying at the Maison D'Abraham.)
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