My journey to learn Hebrew has been a long one. I still remember starting to learn the Aleph Bet in Kindergarten, moving up to reading and writing, the big jump to read without נקודות (vowel marks), and eventually Hebrew classes teaching all the grammar rules of the language. For 12 years I sat in class, learned the material, took the test, and usually did pretty well. And yet, when I came to spend a gap year in Israel every conversation I had with Israelis started with “Sorry, do you speak English?” 12 years of rules and charts and I quickly realized that that was not the best way to learn Hebrew.
So my journey continued. After my gap year I decided I wanted to do Sherut Leumi (national service). I wanted to volunteer for the country, get acclimated to Israeli society, and most importantly, learn Hebrew. I struggled through my interviews but someone got accepted and started working in an elementary school right outside of Jerusalem. I was finally doing it, totally immersing myself into Israel culture so that I could learn Hebrew in Israel. The beginning was tough, but as the year progressed I really felt a change. Until I had to apply to university. I applied for the Social Work program in Bar Ilan University and after making a fool of myself in my interview I did not get in and I felt like I was back to square one. All of the progress I made in learning Hebrew still couldn’t help me get into the program I wanted. So I switched gears and enrolled for the Social Sciences track. I studied my first year in Hebrew and when midterms rolled around I realized that it wasn’t for me so I switched to the same program but in English. Back to square one. In order to graduate I had to take an Ulpan class and I was excited to finally pick back up and learn more Hebrew. It took about 10 minutes into the first class to realize that this was just like every Hebrew class that I took throughout my years in school and just as quickly as I learned everything, I would forget. But I went to class, took the final, passed, and still did not feel comfortable talking in Hebrew.
Until I got my first job. By chance, I started working for Ulpan La-Inyan, an Ulpan specifically designed to help students learn conversational Hebrew. As part of my job I started taking a class and I quickly saw how different it was than any other way I had ever learned Hebrew. I was growing my vocabulary and more importantly, my confidence in actually using it. I finally felt like this was practically helping me learn. After all my years of learning Hebrew as an academic study, I finally felt that this was the best way to learn Hebrew and I really can see the difference it made.