Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words (& may confuse the hell out of you)

To feel a sense of isolation in social situations is a profound sense of loneliness. Being at home or wandering around the city by myself doesn't bother me, it's only when I have to interact with people that I feel like an outsider. Which makes sense. I anticipated it. But one can only grasp the scope with experience.

Little things like going to the supermarket can be terrifying. Do you know how hard it is to find deals when you can't read??? 

I enjoy the challenge of learning a new alphabet and a language that doesn't have Latin or Germanic roots and is written&read right to left and capital letters don't exist....
but damn, it's difficult to make deductions. Seeing and hearing are two different things and I've decided that Hebrew is as tricky as English in this manner. Example: the English word "lead". 

You could have read that as a verb, the opposite of follow, or as a noun, an element of the periodic table.

I've come to recognize that "יציאה" must mean "exit", but without phonetic indicators I can make at least 2 educated guesses as to how it's pronounced; whereas Spanish is phonetically straight forward - knowing the alphabet a non-native speaker can almost perfectly pronounce any word - neither Hebrew nor English have that luxury. 

Israelis are creative people with creative advertising that at times just confuses me in my deduction of the language. I was in line to buy groceries when the cashier lady put up a plastic sign. My Hebrew is good enough to know that the largest word on this sign meant "open". But the rest of the words combined with the picture of a Visa card sharpening a knife (or a knife cutting a card? or a card being scanned on a knife?) completely threw me for a loop. 

Do they not take cards in this line? Or do they only take cards? Or do they only take a specific card!?

In America I've only seen a sign like this for one purpose:

So here I am with a wallet full of shekels and a basket full of products whose labels I can not read and my own cultural memory is clashing with my knowledge of the language.

Asking for help can yield very different responses: empathetic understanding or rolled eyes and sighs of exasperation. This particular moment in the space-time continuum produced the latter.

"You not understand Hebrew?" The white-haired cashier lady said.

Though not completely representative of the truth, I chose the simplest answer: "no".

She points, "This - 'open'," then flips the sign around, "this - 'closed'," but doesn't actually pronounce the Hebrew equivalents, which would put me in the same boat as "יציאה", except that I actually can read and pronounce these words. Rosetta Stone is a beautiful program that rightfully deserves the awards it's received. 

Oh, and that sign: it was advertising an in-store credit card.

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