Time to drop some truth bombs - the teacher, yes, the teacher, is one of the reasons why most of you are struggling to progress in your language learning. If you're into playing it safe and politically correct, you might want to skip this post.
We've been flip-flopping about writing this post for a while. We deeply respect many of our colleagues who teach Hebrew as a second language. But because we at UAB have always prioritized the student's benefit and their success, especially for the newcomers and immigrants to our country, we've got to own up. The truth is, most teachers who teach Hebrew as a second language aren't really equipped for it.
What's the reason? Today, the population of second-language teachers, including those teaching at public ulpanim, can be divided into two: language teachers and accidental teachers. The first group of teachers originates from the field of teaching Hebrew language and preparing Israeli students for their exams, whose mother tongue is Hebrew. As part of their work in the education system, they stumbled into teaching Hebrew as a second language. Yet, despite their education, the teaching methods of many of these teachers just aren't suitable for adults learning a second language.
Most of them emphasize verb analysis, verb conjugation, sentence structures, random vocabulary, but don't let the students – the majority of whom don't speak Hebrew as a first language – actually practice conversation in class. Responding and asking questions. Verb conjugation is cool, but a new immigrant, especially up to level Gimmel (academic level), just doesn't need to learn the names of the constructions.
The second group comprises amateur teachers who have stumbled into the profession merely because they are native Hebrew speakers. In the best case, they have training from a course for teaching Hebrew as a second language, which lasts a few months and includes a weekly meeting. How can such a teacher explain the difference between the words: זאת or זו; how to pronounce the words "מגיעים" (arriving) and the difference between לפגוש and להיפגש.
In recent years, we've even heard of unfortunate scenarios where certain ulpanim have stooped as low as to hire actors to teach Hebrew. It's shocking to us at UAB where a prerequisite for a teacher is at least a bachelors degree in Hebrew language and, of course, our training as a second language teacher.
The bottom line: whether it's a private teacher, a teacher in a private ulpan, or a teacher in a public ulpan; it's time to put an end to unprofessionalism. We believe that you, the students, will know how to choose wisely. After all, for every medical procedure or treatment, you wouldn't choose just someone who took a health course for a few months. You'd want a professional who has studied and worked in the field for years. The same should apply to Hebrew. Only then will you progress in the language and avoid frustration.