Over the past few weeks I have encountered several people who speak English as their second language. At times, I struggled to understand their broken English through their accents, but we managed to communicate. Throughout each of those conversations, I could not help but realize this was going to be me. In seven short months, I would be the one with the accent. I would be the one people have a difficult time understanding. I would be the one trying to piece together a sentence to communicate.
Although I went to schools that taught Ivrit and lived in Israel for a year during seminary, my Hebrew is rusty at best. My husband and I plan to take ulpan after we make aliyah, but it still feels intimidating to move to a country where we are not fluent in the language. Going on interviews, working, and everyday errands seem daunting.
To get a head-start, I purchased Rosetta Stone to practice my Hebrew. Our children have been watching some Hebrew shows and even started using an app called Duolingo. We have been trying to speak in Hebrew during family dinners when we can. It is difficult. It feels awkward to stumble through simple sentences and takes a lot of effort to communicate. But, we also have a lot of fun. The girls find it funny when they do not understand what we are saying, and even funnier when we make mistakes. They are getting used to trying to figure out the words based on context. They are even starting to answer back with some Hebrew responses. As for me, it is good to just start speaking again. The more I practice, the less daunting the language seems. We even keep a dictionary close by to look up new words as soon as they come up. It is good for our kids to see us making mistakes and working on our Hebrew, too!
Past olim keep telling me that their kids picked up the language so quickly and now they are speaking to their Israeli friends in Hebrew. It is hard to imagine my American children speaking Hebrew and keeping up with native Israelis. Will they really pick it up quickly? I hope they can! I hope they will eventually be able to communicate with their classmates and integrate into Israeli society. I hope they will not always view themselves as immigrants. I hope their accents do not impede them from getting jobs and fulfilling their aspirations.
When I encounter immigrants, I am encouraged. People who grew up speaking another language are living in America. They have jobs, are raising children, and complete all their daily activities. Yes, it may be harder for them to carry a conversation, but they are doing it. If they can do it, so can I! However, I will always be considered an immigrant. I will always have an accent and think in English. I will probably always stumble through Hebrew conversations and need people to repeat themselves and slow down. I will probably ask my children to translate for me.
What does all this mean for our family dynamic? We grew up in America. We know the American school systems, sports teams, and culture. Our kids will Iy"h be integrated into Israeli society. They will be doing things we have never experienced. Will our kids be able to come to us with questions or will they feel like we do not understand them? Will they look down upon us for not speaking as fluently as they do? Or will our children be proud of us for making this move and going through this challenging time to bring them to Eretz Yisrael? Will they appreciate the hardship and discomfort we are undertaking to make all our lives richer? Ultimately, will our journey to make aliyah bring our family closer together or further apart?
The fact that I do not know how this will all turn out is very scary. We have been working so hard to foster a loving and close relationship with each of our kids. We try to relate to each of them at each stage in their lives. Obviously, there are no guarantees in America, but it seems more familiar and more predictable. Moving our family to Israel seems to be adding a ton of unknowns into the equation. It is our hope that living our lives in consonance with what we believe is right and moving closer to Hashem will bring our family even closer together. We hope that demonstrating the importance of following our beliefs will serve as a good example for our children. We hope that taking this journey together will be something bonding between us and help bring our family closer together!
Stay tuned for posts during our pilot trip!