Body shaming has gotten much publicity. It’s hurtful, wrong, and nobody’s business how you look. Today I got shamed by a stranger, not for how I look, but for what I said, or rather for what I didn’t.
For me, acquiring Hebrew has been an uphill struggle. I’ve tried and haven’t given up. After 5000+ correspondences this week of WhatsApp messages and emails, my new best friend is Google Translate. The number of times I had to rely on it indicates there is much room for improvement in my language skills and I’m very aware of my limitations.
Today I was attempting to communicate something with a receptionist using limited vocabulary of a subject matter when an older man in the line, asked how long I’ve been in this country. I reply 10 years and then has the chutzpa to tell me my Hebrew should be better after that duration of time. Often the best response is no response and since I was so stunned from the exchange I had nothing to say except SERIOUSLY??? (said aloud in English) and plenty of things left unsaid.
To note, I had a similar exchange when I had lived in Israel less than a year, so there is something to be observed that the (unrealistic) expectation of native language speakers for new immigrants. As a language teacher of 24 years (Spanish, English, and ESL) I can say with confidence, it takes YEARS to learn a second language. Never-the-less, it still bothers me to the core to be shamed and I should be getting an A+ for effort.
I have a few thoughts over this exchange which reflect themes of this pre-Rosh Hashana time:
- Don’t judge. You never know what storms people are walking or have walked through.
- Criticism is not helpful. You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.
- Shaming someone is like killing them. The Torah says “embarrassing someone in public is considered a serious crime, akin to killing someone.” If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.
In regards to my Hebrew, I’ll be the first to acknowledge I would like to be more proficient. Just like body shaming, the individual already knows what needs to be changed; and it takes time, motivation, and patience. A few years ago I wrote The Unbrag Post on Blog Times of Israel how I had managed to complete a weekly school update and how proud I was. One day, I’ll bid farewell Google, but that day hasn’t arrived.
Learning a new language is difficult and takes time. Children generally pick it up faster than adults, especially since they are immersed in it during school hours. Be encouraging, don’t shame. Now I’m going to ‘declutter’ this experience from my thoughts and carry on with preparing for Shabbos. If you are a new Olah or soon to be making aliyah, my words of wisdom are to go to ulpan, find a buddy to speak with, and just do the best you can because there will also be those blessed souls who will tell you you’re doing just fine.
Thanks for reading,
Karen, The Klutter Koach.