My Adventures as a U.S. Diplomat and Family Man

First Stop: Tel Aviv, Israel (July 2012)!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Humbled by Hebrew

Once upon a time I was pretty good in foreign languages. The key was that I got hooked on phonics at an early age. I signed up for after-school Spanish, started learning Russian in the eighth grade and dabbled in some Japanese in high school. I liked foreign languages so much that I used almost all of my electives on them. It made perfect sense in these formative years. Why bother learning life skills in home economics or shop when I could study exotic tongues in Middle America? I suppose Russian would have come in handy if the Soviet Army had invaded Colorado like the 1984 cult movie Red Dawn.

I was pretty nerdy back then (and still am) but I do like to think that this adolescent infatuation set me up for a fateful relationship with the U.S. Foreign Service. Studying Arabic didn't do any wonders for my social life in high school but it probably convinced the State Department to ask me out two decades later. I didn't mind being the back-up plan and clearly wasn't getting any better looking so I quickly said yes. Our romance blossomed this summer during A-100 orientation and, before I knew it, my princess charming proposed (Tel Aviv) to me on Flag Day. Just a week later I took my vows and here I am, a newly sworn-in diplomat, living in an apartment outside of Washington, DC and learning how to share the toothpaste. Instead of waffle makers or crystal stemware, Uncle Sam gave me some basic cookware.

Now I'm learning Hebrew. But this hasn't been like the glory days of adolescence with abundant free time and brain cells. Intensive language training has been both challenging and humbling. I felt on top of things in the beginning but the past few weeks have been a different story. As I have mentioned elsewhere, my speaking experiences have been rife with some embarrassing mistakes.

This morning I had a progress evaluation which also included a reading assessment. I knew this was the biggest weakness for me. I have made some recent strides in deciphering the mind-numbing script but I still struggled making sense of the short articles in Hebrew. I suspect that I did okay overall but it is hard to accept that nobody is going to call me a language savant here. I guess I'm just an average language learner now. Is this how former Homecoming Queens feel? Sniff. Sniff.

No more pity party. Time to get over it and get down to business. I have until mid-May to achieve the required proficiency in Hebrew. I'm still confident that I can do it and maybe get back a little of my foreign language mojo. Maybe I just need Dr. Evil's "Time Machine" to go back to the 1980s. Big hair and bad fashion, here I come!    

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