March 07, 2009

Reading Amos Oz — אל תגידי לילה, No digas noche

אל תגידי לילה in one hand and No digas noche in the other

My friend Elisheva/Isabel is visiting me in Tel Aviv for a few days. She arrived by train from Haifa, where she's completing a degree in Hebrew Language and Literature at Haifa University. (There, the native French speaker who is also fluent in Spanish has been polishing her Hebrew and learning Arabic and written Aramaic.)

During infrequent pauses in our itinerary, my polyglot friend has been reading Israeli writer, novelist, and journalist Amos Oz's novel Don't Call It Night in the original Hebrew. Rather than check dictionary translations of the occasional word or phrase she doesn't know, she holds the Hebrew volume in one hand, and the Spanish translation in the other.

We have been enjoying marathon conversations (reminiscent of happy hours among Israelis discussing Hebrew literature class), Kabbalat Shabbat services at Beit Tefilah Israeli (a Jewish spiritual community that combines Jewish and Israeli identities), a spontaneous Shabbat dinner (complete with a guest!), and a sing-along of Israeli Golden Oldies led by Nachum Heiman (one of Israel's most beloved composers of popular songs) at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.

Despite my linguistic limitations (our conversations are restricted to Hebrew and English), we communicate perfectly.


Anonymous said...

I am amazed hearing of Elisheva's linguistic talents. Are some brains wired for language?

Tamar Orvell said...

I understand that we are wired for different talents (see Harvard's Howard Gardner on his theory of multiple intelligences).

Anonymous said...

Oh, to know the languages! I am afraid my 4+ years of Spanish will barely get me through the drive-thru at Taco Bell!! 

Shawna said...

Impressive. I've lived in israel for three years ( albeit most of it spent outside of the country but still...), and can't speak hebrew. Even worse is that after three years of speaking very little french and attempting the process of learning hebrew, I've now lost my ability to speak french. I've turned into a retroactive uniphone! If my 8 year old self could see me now, she would be furious with me.
I have great admiration for your friend and for your ability to bridge the linguistic gap :-)

Abby said...

I’m impressed with Elisheva’s language capabilities! At one point in life I was fluent in French; that part of my brain shrunk as I took on Hebrew when I decided to go to rabbinical school when already in my twenties. My Hebrew is nowhere near fluent, though hand me a rabbinic text and I’m good to go.