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01st Dec 2011

Learning to Speak Hebrew without a Paintbrush

For many years my hands have been eloquently “speaking” Hebrew, specifically in Torah font as the original letters of Bible texts are the strokes of my paintings and drawings.

However, although I could read Hebrew, as it is almost totally phonetic, there were only a few words that I could read, speak or hear and recognize their meaning. I  had no understanding of the grammar. Any grammar that does not follow the rules of English has previously befuddled me.

In school, my worst subject was always any other language that I would study, other than English where I had straight A’s and advanced courses. Without the special help of a very well known and beloved French teacher, Mrs. Henrietta Rattiner in the High School of Music and Art, I might not have graduated. Before this dear teacher took me under her wing the only subject I studied was French, and I studied it for hours a day, but I was failing and it was the only subject where I did not have an A or at least a B +.

Since my video, “Painting with the Big Bang of Genesis” won Ulpan Or’s first prize in their Facebook contest, I have been studying Hebrew with their system.

Today ends my third week of  study with Ulpan Or, and I am speaking and writing in Hebrew and even understanding short stories in the workbook. This is a huge accomplishment for me, which I have accomplished with less actual time spent studying than in my previous attempts to learn another language that did not go as nearly well.

Ulpan Or’s system includes a CD of sound recordings that are keyed to the workbook. First I listen, and listen, and listen (I listen more than the times recommended as I am a visual and then kinetic learner). But I can do a lot of my extra listening while doing fairly routine or mindless tasks, so this works out fine.

The workbook has written material that corresponds to the CDs. Ulpan Or sent me three well done workbooks, which are all Introductory Level, my general workbook, one on verbs and another for learning the Hebrew letters, including script letters.

The real power behind Ulpan Or’s system for me is Miri, my teacher in Jerusalem, who speaks with me over skype twice a week. She encourages me as I stumble along speaking my new Hebrew words and sentences. Having to speak and listen in Hebrew with Miri has made a huge difference for me!

As part of my last assignment, I had to make up and write 15 sentences using at least 15 new nouns in Hebrew. This is an amazing assignment as I have only been studying for three weeks, which has been wedged into my normal full time life’s activities.

Here are some of my sentences, with the English translation beneath them. And, since I am still learning an practicing Hebrew script, I use the block letters I am so familiar with as my strokes, but have added in the vowels.

Speaking Hebrew Miri tells me I am doing very well, and I understand her. Amazingly, I am also having fun, which after wresting with French and Latin for many years, amazes me.

I also understand more of the Hebrew texts that I use for my paintings. The photocopied sheets I hold in one hand while I hold a paint brush in the other have the translation in English, but now that I am catching on to the grammar I am beginning to figure out more of what the actual Hebrew words mean.

I wonder if and how this new knowledge and even success at what has always eluded me will change my work.

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download a free copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.
Check out the limited and open edition prints in the estore.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .
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