November 14, 2011 | Hebrew

I Am Going to Be Smelling Like Chlorine

I have joined the JCC, for swimming and Hebrew.

Yesterday I froze my existing gym membership for three months and joined the Upper West Side’s JCC, or Jewish Community Center, for three months instead.

The Jewish Community Center, aka the JCC

The Jewish Community Center, aka the JCC

I have two main reasons for doing so:

  1. They have a pool, which my regular local gym doesn’t.
  2. They have Hebrew stuff going on, which my regular local gym doesn’t.

My regular gym does have a location with a pool about a mile and a half from me, but I still have to get on a subway to reach it, and the lanes are so narrow that if you have to share, which you inevitably do, you can get kicked in the head, which, depending on the force involved, could be bad for language learning.

Therefore, I have decided I am going to heal myself locally with Hebrew and swimming in a wide-laned pool. Swimming is stress-fracture-friendly exercise. A three-month membership is perfect. No running, just soft stuff involving water for now.

And so far Hebrew has been very relaxing! I was a little worried, but it is not as crazily bewildering to me as some other languages.

The JCC Pool Is Way Up There!

The JCC Pool Is Way Up There!

To take immediate advantage of my JCC membership, I went to use their gym and pool late last night. Initially I was stretching to a Pimsleur Hebrew lesson, but then I turned on my music instead. It is really hard to exercise properly when your brain is stalled on how to translate sentences such as, “Would you like to have dinner at my place tomorrow?” For exercise purposes, Nelly and Jessie J are better than Pimsleur, I have concluded.

In the gym there was a young woman, maybe late teens, who was running on a treadmill in a long black skirt. As someone who first began running in the age of Dolphin shorts, I am not terribly accustomed to such sights, and I think it will be interesting to have a little more exposure. She looked very athletic.

In terms of sheer Hebrew volume, though, I am pretty sure I will get more at Aroma, the coffee shop previously mentioned. The JCC has Hebrew lessons, but I can’t even walk in to Aroma without hearing at least some Hebrew. The other day the owner (who, as I have mentioned, is Israeli) told me that he thought about 20 percent of his customers were Israeli, climbing to maybe 30 percent on weekends!

Today, for example, when I was there for my morning latte, I saw a family I had noticed there before: a father and two little boys, speaking Hebrew and with Hebrew books out. I sat down nearby and asked if they were Israeli. Indeed they were.

I told the father I was studying Hebrew. One of the little boys said something to me that included the word ivrit (“Hebrew” in Hebrew…well, in a transliterated version of it). The café is loud, so I couldn’t quite hear him, but I decided to assume he had said something about studying or learning or speaking Hebrew, so I told him, “Ani mevinah kzat ivrit.” (I understand a little Hebrew.)

That’s (my own transliteration of) “I understand a little Hebrew.” He appeared to understand me, and he had the cutest look on his face. 

Cool View from the Second Floor of Aroma

Cool View from the Second Floor of Aroma

I told him, “To be honest, I didn’t quite hear your question, but I have in my head right now only a small selection of sentences to choose from no matter what you ask.”

The father said, “That’s our situation in English.”

Based on that one sentence alone, I can tell it is not his situation in English, but of course it is still nice when people try to encourage you in this way.

I am studying a ton of Pimsleur right now, cramming in as much as I can as quickly as I can. For the fifty billionth time, I really love this language-learning program. I think it’s brilliant.

I asked a guy who works at Aroma today how to say “latte” in Hebrew, because I know how to say, “I want to drink wine, please,” and also, “I want to drink beer, please,” but I don’t know how to say, “I want to drink a latte, please.” I thought adding “latte” to my modest store of vocabulary would be good for ordering purposes.

The guy frowned and started in on a rather elaborate explanation of how there are two words for “latte,” and one really isn’t right, so I asked him, “Well, what is the right way?” But he said he needed to take the next person’s order first, and then he never told me.

Which leaves me wondering: is the word for “latte” in Hebrew some really monstrous, scary thing? Or is it top secret and I am not allowed to know? I would like to be initiated into the mysteries of Hebrew latte. 

I promise I will study and learn how to say the Hebrew equivalent of “I would like” rather than ‘I want,” which will sound more polite and less greedy.

Comments (5)

Ken Weingold • Posted on Tue, November 15, 2011 - 11:46 am EST

My guess is that ‘latte’ in Hebrew is pronounced ‘latte’.  Seriously. :)  A lot of foreign/technology words are just used as-is in Hebrew.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, November 15, 2011 - 11:53 am EST

Yes, that’s kind of what I was figuring. But official confirmation is still pending.

Orly • Posted on Wed, November 16, 2011 - 12:35 am EST

Cafe Late is used as cafe late in Israel or in the Hebrew term cafe hafuch which means upside-down (milk is first and coffee on top).
You are now officially initiated into Hafuch club. Welcome:)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, November 16, 2011 - 12:47 am EST

I am so relieved! Todah, Orly!

Luba • Posted on Sat, November 19, 2011 - 6:35 am EST

I’m not sure that there is a version of “I would like” in modern spoken Hebrew - Israeli people are not really ceremonious, so they say simply “I want”, or in a bit more polite way “Can I have [..], please?”
I mean, there are a lot of polite expressions in high formal Hebrew, but no one uses them in real life. They would sound just weird while spoken on the street or at a coffee shop

and yeah, latte is called just late or cafe hafuch, both terms are widely used, so you will be understood using either of them.

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