Being a Stealth Hunter in Another Country

When I moved to Israel this past year, I knew hardly anything about Hebrew, but I was determined not to let that stop me from living like an Israeli. I’ve been using WAYK for the last few years with friends on everything from Latin to Chinook Wawa, and I was ready to go stealth. No one in Israel knew WAYK techniques, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to teach the people in coffee shops and post offices as I passed through. Instead, I decided to use WAYK techniques (TQs) on everyone I knew, but secretly. This meant learning some key phrases fast. I started with ma ze? (What is that?) Armed with this phrase I could find out words like machberet, notebook; studentit, student; and most importantly, cafe hafuch for my morning espresso. Another key word was shuv, again, which helped me use the WAYK TQ for “again” without the sign. If my goal was to find out a new word (like cubiot, which was what I was creating when I diced tomatoes), I could do an elaborate set up, with a knife and tomatoes, and then ask, “What am I doing?” And get my word.

But my greatest asset, learned from WAYK, was fearlessness. I learned from WAYK that rather than being ashamed of my mistakes (How fascinating!), I can use them as tools to hunt new words. If I know what I wanted to say, but used words that I knew were probably wrong but were clear or set up well despite that, I could learn anything. For example, one day, I had made a new friend, and wanted to tell my roommates (all Israeli, and all previously instructed to only speak to me in Hebrew). I bravely told them asiti haver, I made a friend, knowing full well I was telling them something more like, “I built a friend out of clay or sticks,” and they replaced my faux pas with a new piece of information! It was actually rakashti haver.

The big difference between me and my fellow students that I’ve seen in my time learning Hebrew is that I am not scared to speak, and that I know how to hunt; that is, I know how to look for what I want. Armed with these skills, I’ve been able to become proficient in Hebrew in the space of 9 months. I can pay my bills, apply for jobs, and have conversations about politics and religion (popular topics there), all in Hebrew.

Post authored by Jenni.

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2 responses to “Being a Stealth Hunter in Another Country

  1. Very cool Jenni. It makes me miss living abroad and being a stealth hunter. I realized the importance of being stealth in Thailand. When I would use sign language to accelerate my learning, it was actually a hindrance in the conversation and relationship. I quickly dropped the signs and focused on simply tricking people into saying what I wanted right before I wanted to say it.

    After 4 days of hunting from two teenage girls, they were thoroughly confused when I told them I had never spoken Thai before meeting them. They thought I had studied for months but simply had to be reminded of how to say a lot of words.

    • Thanks for sharing, Cory! It’s great that you could be creative and adaptable with what you’ve learned, rather than bogged down by specifics of methods or techniques.

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