Have you ever studied a foreign language?
Have you ever studied one that uses a different alphabet?
Maybe one that is written in the opposite direction of what you're used to?
I've been studying Hebrew since January. This isn't the first foreign language I've studied, but it's the first one I haven't been able to read. And let me tell you this: when you can't rely on your eyes to help you out, your ears do a lot of working. It's been really good for me, though. After the first few lessons, I could feel my super-rusty language-loving brain getting back into shape. I love learning this new language, and I don't know if my brain is functioning any better necessarily, but it's running on a different gear, and that's kinda fun. We're moving at a nice clip now, and I can almost feel synapses in my head reconnecting as I learn a new pronoun or a new verb.
I must tell you that it is very reassuring to know that I am still capable of learning a new language. For a while there, I wasn't so sure I'd ever succeed at that again.
So now, after 10 weeks or so of speaking, I'm beginning to teach myself how to read and write in Hebrew. There aren't many letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but it's been surprisingly difficult to pair up letters with sounds with any consistency. I know it'll help me in my studies, though, and it'll be a huge benefit to be able to read when we go to Israel.
The course instructors are an older Israeli couple. The husband, Moshe, is a retired doctor of some sort and is so excited to see us growing in our abilities. The wife, Tori, is very sweet and encouraging, too. They seem to work well together and it helps to have both male and female voices to get the male and female conjugations right. And there's a bonus: Moshe has a hilarious sense of humor and is full of funny commentary.
The other day, one of my classmates was asking about some conjugations. Tori helped him get to the right answers, and then Moshe piped up and said "Now do you want to know why that is?" My classmate said yes, and Moshe leaned in and said "Because that's the way it is."
And that's the way it is, studying Conversational Hebrew at the Jewish Community Center in Denver, Colorado.