Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to look like an idiot without even trying

The conversation went something like this:
Me: (in Hebrew) I want to make an appointment with Dr. X
Guy on phone: Im Dr. X b'Modi'in? (with Dr. X in Modi'in?)
Me: Ken. (yes)
GOP: Mi holech l'rofe? (who is going to the doctor?)
Me: [Brain fart]

I didn't understand the question. Who is going to the doctor? I don't know - his patients? Is there a party at his office? Do I need to bring a date? It's a contextual thing; I've never been asked this before when making a doctor's appointment. I'm going to the doctor. Who else would it be? (Remember, I do not have children, so I am not used to making appointments for other people. Plus, I've never been asked this before.)

Finally, I get it and I say:
Me: ani. Aliza Ahltmahn (me. Alissa Altman)
GOP: b'ivrit (in Hebrew)
Me: Ma? (What?)

Then the brain really shut down. "In Hebrew"? I answered him in Hebrew. I don't understand. He asked me if I'd prefer English, I said yes, he said something really quickly that I think was he'd get me an English operator, wished me a good day and then hung up.

So.... does that mean someone's going to call me back? Did he accidently disconnect when he meant to put me on hold? Is he banging his head against his desk, sighing, "Anglos"? Did he go on his lunch break thinking, another day, another dumbutt?


Making a doctor's appointment is not difficult Hebrew. I know all the words necessary to make an appointment. Yet, I failed. I know what to say, I just can't understand what people say to me, especially if it's out of context or unexpected. And once I'm thrown, I can't get myself back on track.

This is true for a number of situations. I can get along okay in simple Hebrew, as long as I keep the sentences short and no one ever answers me. Just let me talk, and if you need to tell me something, use hand gestures.

We'll manage just fine. Who needs actual conversations, anyway?


Isobel Phillips said...

Lol this is so me! Me: "Ha'iti rotza monit lemega, bavakasha" Them: what sounds like "bishu mi?" Me: "Slicha?"
Them: "What. is. your. name?"

Except that they're NOT saying "what is your name?" or "bishvil mi?" or anything else that I would expect them to say (or that my ulpan teacher would expect, more to the point.) Now I know what they want as a response, whatever they say I just give my name and they seem happy enough.

Isobel Phillips said...

(Btw, do you know you're wishing everyone Chanukah Sameach? And don't pretend you're well-prepared, cos it's been there since December! :P)

Alissa said...

lol! But, see, that's an accent/speaking really fast and lazily issue. I had something similar, but of course I can't remember what it was now. Along the lines of "zayk-say" when they were actually saying "ze haKiseh." Yep.

And thank you for pointing out the chanukah thing! I hadn't noticed it, and forgot all about it! rofl :) I should have left it up, it'd be right in a few months, anyway...

camille said...

my hebrew takes sucking to a new low. i recall many an awkward moment in the land. generally, when faced with more hebrew than i could handle, i would just blink weakly a few times and scram. i was very popular in shops in israel–kinda like the runaway bride of the retail world.

Jess said...

Hebrew tip time!

The "hayiti" at the beginning of "hayiti rotza monit" gives your anglo-ness away, without even having to consider whether or not you have an accent.

This does not mean "I would like a taxi" like it does in English. Basically, you said "I wish I could have a taxi" (or " I had wanted a taxi").

Modern Hebrew does not have all those polite modals - Ask for what you want: "Ani rotza monit lamega (LAmega, by the way, not LEmega)" or explain exactly what you need: "Ani tzricha monit lamega", or if you're desperate to be polite, "efshar lamega?".

Let me regale you with a tale of my cousin, who's Hebrew is in theory impeccable, but likely to get him shot in the seedier areas of Tel Aviv. When in a taxi in Jerusalem, he directed the driver "ata rotzeh lifnot smolla", or "You want to turn left here" (by the way, a totally normal way of saying "turn left here" in Toronto and much of Montreal, for linguistic reasons which are sooooo not the topic of conversation here. I'm just covering the bases in case some of you are not from East Coast Canada).

NOTE TO FILE FOR OLIM: Never. Ever. Tell the taxi driver where HE wants to go. And this turn of phrase? So polite in Eastern Canada? SUPER rude in Hebrew.

You: "You want to go left at the corner"
Israeli: Who's this jackass telling me what I want to do???

NOTE TO FILE FOR SELF: Never. Ever. Get in a cab with aforementioned unnamed cousin.

Isobel Phillips said...

@Jess - that phrase "ha'iti rotza" was given to me by my ulpan teacher when I asked her how to say "I would like" ... She said that when ordering a taxi herself, she would say "ani mazmina monit" but that although too polite for most Israelis, "ha'iti rotza" is an acceptable way to ask for something. Language is very confusing! She also suggested "ha'iti tzricha" for "I had to (needed to)"

I still haven't worked out what the taxi booker is saying when she asks who the taxi is for - it certainly doesn't sound like "bishvil mi?" it's "___shu mi?" or "___vu mi?" and whoever answers the phone uses the same phrase. Any ideas?

Btw, in London it would be quite common to say "you want to turn left here" as well. I'll bear that in mind!