Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ulpan: To do or not to do

(yeah, yeah, it's been a long time.)

Someone on LinkedIn posted this question, I felt like answering it, and then realized it would make a good blog post. So here ya go!

Question: When first making Aliyah should you work or study Hebrew full time be fluent? Some say yes, and some say no! what is the best ideal answer?

Answer: My own opinion (and it is my own :) ) is it's best to do Ulpan first. It won't make you fluent, but it will give you a good foundation. More importantly, ulpan is where you will make lifelong friends. Your ulpan classmates will be your social environment for the first few months (assuming you don't already have an existing one, of course. Some people do when they make aliyah) and, since nearly everyone - if you're taking Ulpan Aleph (the first level) - will have recently made aliyah, it will give you moral support. You'll have people who will truly understand you when you are frustrated with the bank, when you keep buying tomato paste at the supermarket when you really want tomato sauce, when you are unbelievably thrilled with yourself the first time you manage to order pizza to be delivered ALL IN HEBREW and your pizza showed up exactly how you ordered it!

This will also be the only time you really get to freely travel around the country and explore. Once you start working, if you're lucky, you will have Friday off, which is a crazy day for most people preparing for Shabbat and hard to do tourist-y stuff. Some ulpans arrange day trips for their students, as well.

Fluency with Hebrew will come when you start working (unless you're in an all-Anglo environment) and making Hebrew-speaking friends and forcing yourself to speak Hebrew when you're out. Don't be afraid to say you're an oleh and that you really want to speak Hebrew; nearly everyone will accommodate you - to a certain extent. :)

On the other hand, if you get offered a great job that seems stable that you really want and will be happy in for a long time - how do you say no to that? You can take a night ulpan class (be prepared to be exhausted!), you can get private tutoring, you can throw yourself headlong into Hebrew seminars, lectures, movies, etc and try to learn that way.

So you see, there is no best ideal answer. You have to decide what works for you, based on your situation and your needs. B'hatzlacha!! May you be successful in your aliyah!