“Spikking Inglish”

English is the most difficult language to learn. It is written one way and spoken in another.

We don’t cut our food with a nife (knife), we don’t say good nite (night), when something is funny we laff (laugh), when the sun shines it is brite (bright). We no (know) that we must do something now (ow) in order to gain nolej (knowledge) in colej (college).

If Shakespeare had known Hebrew he would have warned Julius Caesar to beware the 5th of Adar Sheni, not the ides of March.

Some years ago I used to take my late afternoon coffee and strudel at the beloved Café Atara on the Ben-Yehuda midrachov in Jerusalem. Besides the Israeli regulars, there were many American students visiting and enjoying the delites (delights) of the city, and chatting together in a peculiar English.

Coodya? Woodya? Didya? Hadya? Shoodya? (Translation: could you? would you? Did you? Had you? Should you?)

It was surprising to hear native English speakers mutilating the language. “I’m going to the liberry (library) in Febyuary (February). What wood (would) the Bard of Avon have thot (thought)?

Not to make fun of Americans who “kill” their langwij (language), but Israelis who learn English have greater problems. There are English letters that many Israelis cannot pronounce such as “th”. This becomes “dis” that becomes “dat” and those becomes “dose”.

Often the problem is the speech patterns of the teachers of English in our schools. Teachers born in German-speaking countries or Polish or Hungarian backgrounds pronounce words differently. And students repeat what they have herd (heard). And what they rite (write) is not always rite (right).

Sitting at an outdoor table at Café Atara was always a delite (delight). Many acquaintances were made there and the coffee and pastries were superb. And I never ceased to be amused by the conversations of the young Americans with New England or down south accents.

On the other hand, Hebrew is a relatively easy language to learn. Each letter is pronounced according to the vowels placed under or over the letter. We have two silent letters (aleph and ayin) and a few letters which differ but have the same pronounciation (vet & vav, chet & chaf, kaf & koof, samech & sin, tet & tav) and many of us write with mistakes when it comes to choosing the correct letter.

All praise to Eliezer Pearlman (Ben-Yehuda), the father of the revived modern Hebrew language. Coffee at Café Atara always tasted better when Hebrew conversations could be overheard, rather than those who were “spikking Inglish”.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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