I’ve saved for my final goals post the most challenging one I have this year – getting a handle on Hebrew. I’ve written before about my challenges with languages in general, and with Hebrew in particular. Its been a hard road. In attempting to learn this language I’ve set many a goal, and have failed to meet them. The reasons for this are two fold. First, I have no natural facility at language, and frankly, I find the study of it to be drudgery. I’d much rather run than memorize Hebraic consonant vowel combinations. Second, I’m busier than I have ever been in my life. My job gets more demanding by the month. E and I have moved into a new apartment, and family and friend commitments seem to be multiplying.
It just seems like there hasn’t been the time. But, as with anything else, if I prioritize this, I’ll find the time. And learning Hebrew is important to me. Over the rest of my life, I expect to spend hundreds of hours in synagogue, work with my theoretical someday children in preparation for their bar or bat mitzvah, and take part in scores of Seders. I’d really like to have some understanding of the language which is central to these events.
So we push on. Currently I can, if given enough time, sound out many words. That’s a big improvement over this time last year. But it is nowhere near enough. I had hopes of signing up for a Hebrew class this spring, but my work commitments just do not allow for it. I’m rarely out of work before eight o’clock – night classes are just not going to work.
Perhaps over the summer I’ll be able to find the time for a systematic class, but for now, the goals for the year are three fold – a total number of hours in study; two workbooks completed, and a prayers understood.
In the past I have set unrealistic goals for how much Hebrew I can study a week. I work a lot, I run a lot, I futz around my new apartment a lot. All of which doesn’t leave much time for study. So my new, and I hope manageable goal, is just two hours a week. Two hours a week times fifty two weeks equals one hundred and four hours. Even a lazy guy like me can accomplish that.
I’ve almost worked my way all the way through Teach Yourself Hebrew. Next up – Joseph Anderson’s Prayer Book Hebrew the Easy Way. Copying out assignments from workbooks is not the ideal way to learn a language, but its what I’ve got right now.
In order to test my knowledge and have something to work towards, I need a goal. As my long term intention is to be able to navigate the High Holiday services, there is no better place to start than with the prayer that is at the center of the liturgy – the Shema.
The three paragraphs of the Shema are the center of Jewish of worship. Observant Jews say the prayer three times a day. I’m going to work my way through it this year, focusing on pronunciation and comprehension (not grammar) with the goal of being able to read and understand it by Rosh Hashanah this fall.
Hebrew is by far my biggest personal challenge of the year. I plan to post about it a lot more. I realize most readers come to this blog for the fitness posts, but I hope you’ll find the posts about language acquisition to be at least a little diverting.