January 22, 2014

Losing the Hebrew

My boys are losing their Hebrew. I guess it was only to be expected, after all Ron has been four when we left Israel, and Yon was five months old. They have both passed the "most of their life" point and can now safely say they have lived in English speaking countries far longer than in Israel. To be honest I don't think I really noticed it, after all I sometimes feel Hidai and I are losing our Hebrew too. It is becoming so much easier to talk about work, blog, school in English. More than that, it makes more sense, after all life is being lived in English.
It was never our intention to lose the Hebrew. We really tried to keep it alive. To tell you the truth the first couple of years it felt weird talking out loud in English. You always feel like you are making one mistake after the other, you forget all the lovely words and expressions you know and are left with the same English a ten years old has, and that is on the good days. And the accent, don't get me started on the accent. I still feel my accent is a weird combination of idiotic and Russian. And when you feel like that, why would you want to volunteer putting yourself through it? Add to that the fact that our vocabulary in Hebrew was bigger and more profound (not like a ten years old), the fact that it is part of our identity, what comes out naturally when we open our mouths, and the feeling of utter betrayal.
A language is so much more than just words, and when you move to a new country it is sometimes your last connection to the place you left behind, where you felt you belong, where you felt you are understood. Where you never felt like a ten years old.
But the years go by, the kids get older and your "keeping the Hebrew" resolve begins to crack. The kids go to nursery or school and you find that when you tell them to tidy up in Hebrew they look at you and smirk but when you say it in English they actually do it, because it's like in nursery. You find them talking amongst themselves in English, you feel like an idiot walking around the supermarket with a list written in Hebrew to buy in English, you need to talk about something that happened at work but it's only funny in English, and so you find that the English has breached your defences and is in your house. It happens so slowly, so gradually, that the first time you say "oh, how do you say that in Hebrew?" you don't even notice it. That's when you start mixing and get used to talking in what can only be described as utter Gibberish to anyone listening from the outside. And still you don't really notice it, because how am I supposed to remember what shoes are called in the mornings before I've had my coffee?
Then another year or so goes by and the kids are embarrassed when you talk Hebrew next to their friends, so you start talking to them in English when you pick them up from school, or when you help them with homework because they have to understand it in English and besides they don't know what you mean when you say weird Hebrew words. And when you talk with people in Israel they use slang and references and words you've never heard of because your Hebrew got stuck somewhere around 2009, and one day you find yourself saying something about how much easier it is to write an email in English.
And still you don't notice it, until one day your parents come for a visit and say "Orli, did you notice that the boys answer more in English when we talk to them?" "No. Of course they don't. You are getting senile. And your hearing is bad". But then you start listening and you notice that it is true.
Then comes the day when you have to face the fact that there is no more room in the house, and if you want the boys to have somewhere to put all those Christmas gifts you need to clear some space, and your the corner of your eye catches those hundred books in Hebrew you bought for them over the years and you realise that they are there so you would feel better, that you would feel like there is some chance that someone will read them.
Books for sale
Then. When you take out all those unopened books and put them in bags. Then it hits you, we've lost the fight. A fight we didn't even know we were fighting. Because it is not the fight for the Hebrew we've lost, it's the fight for a shared past. That is the moment you realise how much we take for granted the invisible chord connecting the generations through songs and stories and school and TV. How much we rely on it when we want to create shared history, traditions, a family.
Even when you know it in your head, even when you can rationalise the decisions (It will be enough of a challenge teaching Yon to read English with his eyes, we won't even try with the Hebrew), even when you know that understanding the language is more important than talking, or reading and that writing is last in that sequence, even then it still knock the air out of your lungs. Even then you still feel a little piece of your heart breaking.
We gave away all the books, and DVD's. We tell them to answer in whatever language they want, and find we talk to them more and more in English. Because when you stop and think about it, the thing we want most is a connection with our kids. All the history, traditions, and invisible chords won't be worth it if my kids won't feel they can talk to me. In whatever language they choose.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving a comment. I absolutely love comments :)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...