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My Kids Are Learning Hebrew & Now I Have to Start Keeping Up

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Ted Chevalier

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore my daughters’ Jewish Day School. The teachers are amazing, I love the other families, and my girls are learning everything from engineering to Israeli dance.

There’s just one problem. They’re also learning Hebrew.

I mean, really learning Hebrew. And not just the songs (if I have to listen to Adon Olam one more time I might lose my mind), but every week they’re getting better at writing, reading, understanding, and speaking Hebrew. On Monday, my big girl’s first grade class performed their annual Bereshit play. Fortunately, I am familiar with the creation story, otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on—it was almost entirely in Hebrew.

READ: My Kids Only Want to Speak Hebrew, But I Only Understand English

I can deal with not being able to read the bulletin boards on the wall at school, and I can handle not following along with the school play. What I can’t handle is not understanding my daughters when they’re talking to each other.

My children are on the verge of having their own secret language that I can’t speak.

THIS IS A CRISIS, PEOPLE.

I know how annoying it is to be on the wrong end of a secret code. When I was growing up, I refused to learn Italian from my mother (OY!), thus allowing her to converse with my grandmother about me right in front of me. I’d be happy to have a similar set-up with my husband, but I speak Spanish and he speaks Hebrew, so we’re going to have to text each other or pass notes old school style every time we want to communicate privately in front of the girls.

(And yes, Josh could translate the girls’ Hebrew for me, but he often travels for work, and then I’m stuck alone with my devious little bilingual plotters.)

I cannot let this happen.

READ: Mayim Bialik: The Hebrew Prayer That Brought My Son & Me Together

I know, I know. I should have started learning Hebrew years ago, before I became a mother and lost all of my free time and mental functioning in one fell swoop. The truth is that I never wanted to learn the meaning behind the prayers I was reciting on Saturday mornings. As much as I believe in God, I find traditional liturgy (even the Reconstructionist variety) to be somewhat alienating. I get the gist of the prayers, and I prefer the meditative experience of singing without understanding each word and phrase.

But things have changed, and now I have children. So I’m onto the next phase of the Jewish Mother Project: It’s time to learn Hebrew.

I’ve spent some time researching my options, and I’ve decided to start by checking out some Pimsleur* CDs from the local library. I’ve also downloaded the Memrise* app for my phone.

And now I need your help, dear readers. I would be so grateful for your tips, tricks, and suggestions. I’m looking for workbooks, apps, websites, audio downloads, flashcards—anything you think might be helpful for a busy mama looking to learn a new language. Also, as long as we’re on the topic, if you have any suggestions for flashcards or other family friendly reminders for the blessings over food (not necessarily for Shabbat, just for food), please send them my way.

READ: How My Sons–and a Hebrew Word–Taught Me to Make Decisions

* I have no relationship, financial or otherwise, with these companies, and this is not an endorsement of their products.

Missed the last one? Check out past Jewish Mother Project posts here

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