Thursday, August 26, 2010

To learn Hebrew, just have fun...

My column this week is on my ongoing attempts to get my kids to speak Hebrew, and on my summer holiday in Israel:

Parallel universes exist mostly in the realm of science fiction. But this summer, I was privileged to enter my own alternative reality. For four weeks, I got to see a life I could have lived but don't, a child I could have had, but don't. I got as close as I will probably ever get to bringing up Israeli children.

It all began about a year ago, when I became determined to teach my two daughters Hebrew. This was, admittedly, partially about me - I grew up in Israel and speak the language fluently, and cannot imagine my children not sharing something so integral to my identity. But it was, far more so, about what I desire for them.

Hebrew is the key to Jewish texts and liturgy, and I do not want my children to be able to tackle them only one step removed, in translation.

I also want them to be able to talk to their Israeli cousins; and to forge a connection to the Israeli state, its culture and its people. While good Hebrew is not a prerequisite for a strong bond with Israel, surely those who overcome the language barrier can understand Israeli society far more deeply, and navigate it with greater ease.

At first, I concentrated on speaking Hebrew at home, but while my four-year-old seemed to understand most of what I was saying, she was always more comfortable answering me in English. Gradually, I hatched a plan. We were going to enrol her in a summer camp in Jerusalem, where she would be immersed in the Hebrew language, be exposed to vocabulary I would never give her, and mix with Israeli children.

Read the rest here, and come back here to comment...

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