Thursday, October 25, 2007

The new "Where are you learning?"

The last time I lived in Israel, 6 years ago, the most frequent question I would get asked was "Where are you learning?". I didn't have the type of answer that people were expecting, and as I got tired of saying "Actually, ...", I started coming up with creative answers, like "On the bus to work." The reason the question grated on me so much was the underlying assumption that anyone in the world of 20something non-oleh liberal Jewish Anglos living in Jerusalem must be learning at some institution. Since I wasn't, I was a landless alien.

This time around, I have a more conventional answer to the question (which I still get asked, but now it's of no deeper significance to me).

This means that I have to nominate a new question for Question I Never Want To Hear Again. I'm going to flip if I have to come up with another answer to "What is your Talmud background?". And this time, the people asking the question are doing their job and my answer could have consequences, unlike the old days when the question was asked in shallow social interactions that I didn't have to take seriously. Just like in the days of the old question, life would be simpler if I could just produce the name of a yeshiva.

In related news, one thing I like about taking Arabic is that (unlike in Hebrew or Talmud) I know exactly what level I belong at, and have never questioned this for a minute.


  1. fahemt kant araft shwayeh arabiya?

  2. I'm learning written Arabic, not colloquial.

  3. fahemtu kantu muhim arabaya (i think)

  4. i'm trying to say "I thought you already knew some Arabic". I remember walking down the street with you in nyc and you said "shu ismak" "min wen inte" and i had no idea. now I can say "fein rasi" (where is my head). very useful.

    I took a spoken arabic for hebrew speakers class at ben gurion u. it was a mess. everyoen thought they knew what they were doing and the teacher couldn't decide if he was teaching fusa grammer, or falah spoken. i also was taught a bit by a Tunisian lady at Governor's State. I still can't distinguish maful bihi and maful nihi. but I do remember that haruf is a noun and haruf is a sheep (or something like that)

  5. i'm trying to say "I thought you already knew some Arabic".

    I learned a few phrases in colloquial Palestinian Arabic a few years ago (and all I understood from that sentence was "shwayeh arabiya"), but not enough to affect my level. The alphabet is completely new to me (except the names of the letters, which seem eerily familiar).