While I was in America I marveled at how I could communicate with everyone in English and never had to worry about how to express myself. I told everyone who would listen how it was very tiring to always have to communicate in a second language. It was hard to explain because it’s not as though my Hebrew is terribly lacking, but I didn’t always feel comfortable about it.
Then I came back here…and surprised myself.
At the train station, we needed to move five suitcases through the exit gate, which had no mechanism to stay open other than someone standing there blocking it. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but Jeff had just dropped one of the 50-pound ones on his toe and broken it. An unhelpful clerk wouldn’t help, and in my effort to convince him, a torrent of Hebrew just poured out of my mouth unbidden. This should not have been a surprise, but because I had just gotten off the plane, it was.
Part of it, at least for arrival in the country, is that the last time I went through the train station and government offices was a long time ago (comparatively). What a difference! Language skills are a big part of it, but it’s also just knowing how various systems work and where different buildings are.
However, the feeling hasn’t gone away. I’ve been surprised at myself over and over for the past several days, at stores, government offices, and with Israeli friends. I open my mouth and Hebrew comes out. I’m not sure why this continues to surprise me.
I still haven’t been able to express everything as clearly as I would like to, but for some reason I stopped stressing about it. It’s like my brain suddenly decided that my Hebrew skills are not something that needs conscious attention all the time. I hope it lasts. It’s so easy to choke and get in the way of myself.
I also realize that Rafi understands basic Hebrew now, so I don’t have to code-switch* as frequently when he is included in a conversation.
As for being at ease enough to speak Hebrew with friends…well, over the past week I have been reminded that I have friends here, not only in America. 🙂
*Code-switching is the linguistic term for switching languages, but it’s a broader term that includes other modes of communication like gestures and dialects.