Monday, March 19, 2007

How Not to Learn a Language

In the last post I mentioned that people should learn Hebrew. As any language, Hebrew has its challenges. One way to learn a language is to associate similar-sounding foreign words with those in one's native language. This technique can help in certain situations but it is not to be used exclusively.

For example, in Hebrew there are words that are the same in English:
The English word for "fax" is fax in Hebrew.
"bank" is bank
"student" is student
"telephone" is telephone
"pizza" is pizza
and "picnic" is picnic.

Some Hebrew words have a different sounding familiar English word, like the Hebrew word safari means "my book"
bat means "daughter"
key means "because"
ear means "city"
car means "cold"
and shalom means "peace". And "hello". And "goodbye".

If you think that's bad, it can get more confusing. The English word for "bear" in Hebrew is dove, and the Hebrew word for "dove" is yonah
"fish" is dog, but "dog" is kelev
par is "bull", but bull is a "stamp"
man is "address", but a "dress" is simlah
"gift" is shy, but "shy" is bayshan
and off is "chicken"... which reminds me of a joke:

An Israeli man moved to America but didn't bother himself to learn much English. He loved to eat baked chicken but could not understand how to get his American oven to work. Thinking it was broken he decided to call an oven repair man. Fortunately, he found one who spoke some Hebrew and invited him to come see if he could find the problem and fix it. The repair man checked the oven, but it was working fine. He then asked the Israeli to see if maybe he was doing something wrong. The Israeli said, "I just put the chicken in the oven and turn the knob to off.
Anyway, to make matters worse, when it comes to personal pronouns, well, "she" is he, "he" is who, "who" is me, "me" is a-knee, and "they" is him.

I do know a little Spanish, though: "Es oh see kay es" (but don't ask me what it means).

1 comment:

Michael said...

My favorite Hebrew foible came when I tried to figure out which public bathroom to use (they didn't have pictures on the signs).

The doors were labeled gevarim and nashim, or course. So remembering that gever is "ma'am" and anashim is people, I went right into the ladies' room.

Only peed at home for about 3 months after that one...

Of course, gevarim is "gentlemen" and nashim is "women."

And the bathrooms themselves are sherutim, which is the plural of sherut, a group taxi, but don't try to pee in one of those!

Sherut, obviously, means "service."

Nice blog you have here...