Thanks to many years of hard work, I read Hebrew fluently. I can hold my own in conversation with native Israelis on any topic without missing a beat or slowing down. There’s just one problem: gender.
Unlike English, Hebrew is not gender-neutral. Nouns, verbs and their subsequent adjectives and adverbs are either male or female; there is no default neutral. For someone who grew up with English and still considers it his mother tongue, this obstacle has been plaguing me for years.
It’s hard to overcome a problem that doesn’t really make it harder for me to be understood. Unlike spelling or pronunciation errors, mistakes in gender generally don’t cause confusion. But many of my Israeli friends can’t stand it – to them it’s the equivalent of serious spelling errors and mispronunciations.
Sometimes I console myself that at least I don’t have to speak a language like Yiddish or Russian, which has three gender forms (male, female and neutral). But that’s not much consolation, nor much of an excuse given I’ve lived here most of my life.
Anyone have any suggestions?