all that potential


Sculpture at Ulpan Gordon, Lasalle Street, Tel Aviv; and orange trees close by. If you’re not familiar with the term, an Ulpan is an intensive Hebrew course, taught in Hebrew only, for new immigrants. Tel Aviv is the first Hebrew city in modern times, so the idea of the Ulpan has a lot of meaning.

When I first made Aliyah I studied Hebrew here. The experience was very different from what I had expected. I have a lot to say about Hebrew language learning and Ulpans but this isn’t the place.


13 comments on “all that potential”

  1. I like the symbolism of the two juxtaposed images – the sculpture of the newly arrived immigrants who have landed in a world of orange trees. Of course – I know it’s not that simple…but the message is not lost.

  2. I began my Ulpan studies while still in Russia so after couple of months I knew how to say “Sliha, ata oleh hadash?” (Excuse me, are you a [new] immigrant?” just to make sure I can continue my talk in Russian :)

    I love the connection with the oranges – just like Marcie stated before me.

  3. I agree with Marcie, there is a sense of welcome, and hope in this combination. Many immigrants here in the US learn the English language from their children as the children learn much more quickly in the school system, and adult learning centers are not as convenient. Do most immigrants in Israel learn Hebrew?

    • Marcie, thanks – you put it very nicely.

      Ilan – я вообще не знала, что ты из России приехал :) Я почему то думала, что ты здесь родился. Если бы я не знала русский язык когда я сюда приехала, было бы труднее.

      Andrew – that happens in the UK too. Here, everyone who comes on Aliyah as an new citizen is given a certain amount of free Hebrew tuition by the government. It’s great, but it’s not enough to make you fluent. The rest depends on the individual. It’s hard work and there’s a lot of culture shock involved too.

      Sometimes circumstances stop people learning, and some people don’t want to. I’ve met Ethiopian adult immigrants who came here under terribly hard circumstances who speak Hebrew, and British immigrants who after 30 years here just have the basics.

  4. i like the mix of black and white and colour and the texture differences between the sculpture and orange tree leaves.

    i remember once in spain meeting a restaurant owner (a brit) who had lived in spain for 25 years and still did not speak one single word of spanish. i have to say i was disgusted! personally, i think all countries should make language instruction mandatory for new immigrants.

  5. Lovely juxtaposition Cat! I came to the US at the age of eight and was put in a first grade class since they did not know what to do with me – not many Latvian speakers around and not a soul to translate anything at all. Talk about immersion learning – it was sink or swim. And yes, that is one of my pet peeves – second language teaching (i.e. Spanish) is not necessary in the US school system, and actually slows the learning of English I believe. Interesting subject.

  6. Howdy, I speak Texan which is a much slower version of the English language and some people say we talk funny. :) I was on a plane to Kansas City one time and a girl I was talking to said to me your not going to talk that way when you get there are you. I had to laugh.

  7. Now here’s a post, I can relate to. I did a six-month ulpan on Kibbutz Ma’abarot, near Netanya and worked most of those months in “Pardes” or the orange orchards. Still have the scratches/scars on my arms…those trees are rather thorny. I also was a bilingual teacher in Los Angeles and Central California for 15 years and have dedicated much of my life to second-language acquisition. Bilingual education, when done right, supported with needed resources works. I disagree with Daina’s view as expressed above. We’re talking different populations, times, socioeconomics… She was lucky, perhaps, that she was the only Latvian in her class/school. But when you’re one of many Spanish-speakers and your parents work three full time minimum wage jobs so they can share a studio apartment with two other families…don’t get me started…but then, maybe that’s why you posted these pix. (Incidentally, I’m fairly conversant in Hebrew, even after just a half year ulpan. But I entered an intermediate ulpan after having taken two semesters of Hebrew in public school here.)

    • Thanks for your comments :)

      Actually I’m really interested to hear people’s views on language learning, whatever they may be. So thanks for sharing them and providing a lot of food for thought.

      I’ve met a lot of people who came to a new country at a young age (the UK and Israel) and who had to learn their new language under stress, with little “professional” support and it wasn’t easy for them. Kids from struggling families have even more stress and should be supported.

      Here’s my own personal experience and perspective: I found the Ulpan teaching OK, if very rigid, but my class was far too full (35+). Well over 50% were tourists in TA for the summer – Ulpan Gordon is seen as a cool social experience. That’s really great, but not when it affects learning for immigrants (Olim or foreign workers). They NEED to learn Hebrew to build a life here, tourists are here to have an experience. Without Hebrew, it’s impossible to integrate here and build a proper life. Not hard. Impossible.

      My solution – encourage more tourists to learn in special classes, charge them real market rates, hire teachers, make a profit, direct that back to immigrants. Everyone wins.

      Eventually I had to take a private, very intensive ulpan and I know LOTS of immigrants don’t have that privilege.

      The kibbutz ulpan you did, Mindy, sounds like a great idea.

  8. I just want to quickly answer – We were very poor my mother who was an opera singer/teacher in Latvia had to clean houses in the US and my whole family lived in one rented room so how was there an advantage for me? Why was I lucky when I was the only Latvian speaker and could not communicate with anyone at all and therefore got no help with anything? Matter of fact it is because there are so many that can translate or explain that learning English for many is not a priority they get by without learning any – even many TV stations are in Spanish and one can find most social services in Spanish. The situation in US is very different than it is in Israel.

    • daina – thank you for your reply. Your mother must have been an extremely strong person and I do now have some small insight into what it’s like to leave a successful, ordered life behind and start again in a new place, new culture, new language.
      I think there is a correlation between identity and language learning, a willingness to integrate – it doesn’t necessarily correlate with wealth. Here there were a million immigrants from the USSR but the ones who wanted to be Israelis learned Hebrew, the Ethiopians who came with nothing learned Hebrew – but I’ve met English-speakers who’ve been here years and can’t speak, but they consider themselves “Anglo-Saxons”. I’ll think more about it, as this response is off the top of my head :)

  9. i appreciate the two different treatment, and b&w-colors together.. orange is a simple gift of nature.. for everyone..

  10. these work wonderfully together, cat.

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