Thursday, August 12, 2010

PART SIX. Language Lessons. Number One


Okay, Shloimy, today your new education begins.

This is language day-- and here is language lesson number one.

Today, I open a newspaper, to test my reading skills.You can follow along.

 Reading Hebrew is not the same as speaking. It is more challenging, because, for one thing, if you get into trouble trying to read a newspaper, no newspaper will instantly begin to talk to you in English--the way a native speaker will--to help you out.

You open a paper, Shloimy, you are on your own.

Remember that.

Okay, so there I am reading a newspaper, in Hebrew.

The first thing I learn is, pictures are important. Very important.

Remember that.

 For ex, I turn a page, and before me lies a full-page ad. There are pictures. Specifically, on the page before me there are small pictures of foods and toiletries.


A supermarket ad.

See how easy it is?

There. Look at that picture. It's a small picture of a bottle of wine. There's a number beside it--25.

I now know I can buy that bottle of wine for 25 shekel!!!


I can read. Right?

Yes--until I turn the page, and see another full page ad for all kinds of things--without pictures!

How dare they!

Quick. What's for sale on this page? Can you see? Can you tell?

I can't. Without pictures, I can't understand a thing!

Well, at this point--this page--your guess is as good as mine, Shloimy, even if I'm the only one actually looking at this page.

I don't have a clue.

Talk about the joy of victory and the agony of defeat: all I did was turn a page in a newspaper.

So, what lesson do you learn from this?

Turn the page!!!!

Remember that.

See how quickly you can learn a new language?

So, next page. Another full page ad, this time, with pictures.

Hey, I can read again!

Life changes quickly, does it not?

This page is a furniture ad. Lots of furniture.

This is fun!!

Next page.

Uh, oh.

This is an article, entirely in Hebrew.

But look--there's a picture!

Look. A picture of a man, in a suit, with a tie.

In Israel, that can mean only one thing.

He's important!


See how easy this is?

I try to read this article about this important man. I use a dictionary, to translate some words.

This is so easy!!

Well, let's see now, according the dictionary, this story is about the Minister of Religion in Israel, visiting our city. He has a purpose here. Let's go back to the dictionary.

Ah, yes, I see.

The minister of Religion has come to to us, according to the dictionary,  to rub oil on 3,250,000 Shekel (the Israeli currency).


Rub oil on money?

I go back to the dictionary.


Rub oil on money.

I call a friend. Is this possible? When I learn to read newspapers, is this what I am going to learn about--strange, exotic and unspeakable political acts never mentioned in public, but written about in local newspapers?

No, my friend says. The word I ask about does not mean, "rub oil on". It means, "total". The story in the paper is about the Minister coming to our city to discuss the total of 3.25 million Shekel, available for religious use, in our city.

But, I protest, the dictionary says it means, "rub oil on".


So, Shloimy, you see--you must be careful.

Now. Tell me. What lesson do you learn from your first hebrew language lesson?

What?  You say that your first lesson is that dictionaries can be misleading?

Shloimy, haven't you been paying attention?

Your first lesson is, if an Israeli man comes up to you and tells you he wants to rub oil on your money--don't believe him!

This is Israel, not America!

Next lesson, Shloimy, pay closer attention.

End of language lesson number one.

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