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"I Don’t Need to Learn Hebrew. My Partner Can Teach Me"

If you have an Israeli partner, whether you live in Israel or abroad, here's a guide on what to do and what not to do when it comes to learning Hebrew with your partner.

"I don’t need to learn Hebrew right now, my new husband can teach me." This is a message we recently received from one of UAB’s former students. While it’s a sweet and romantic idea that your partner wants to help you adjust to your new life in Israel by teaching you Hebrew, it's important to set some boundaries.

Why Your Partner Shouldn’t Be Your Hebrew Teacher

1. Power Dynamics: When one spouse takes on the role of teacher, it can shift the power dynamics within the relationship. The "teacher-student" roles can create tension, especially if the learning process is slow or challenging. This dynamic can lead to frustration, feelings of inadequacy, or resentment on both sides.

2. Increased Stress: Learning a new language is stressful. Doing so with a spouse might amplify this stress, making the learner feel more pressure to perform well to meet their spouse’s expectations. Mistakes or slow progress might lead to embarrassment or decreased self-esteem, while the teaching spouse might feel frustrated if the learner is not progressing as expected.

3. Language Habits: When Israelis meet foreigners, whether in Israel or abroad, the language spoken during the dating process is usually English (unless the native Israeli speaks another language). Switching to Hebrew once the new immigrant starts learning can be difficult, though not impossible.

What Should a New Oleh Do?

1. Enroll in a Professional School: Keep learning Hebrew in a professional school like UAB. Use your partner and their family to practice the language, but let the structured learning happen in a classroom setting.

2. Use Your Partner for Practice: Your partner’s role should be to encourage you to keep learning, talk with you outside of ulpan or language school, and motivate you.

What Shouldn't You Do?

Don’t Rely on Your Partner for Homework: Don’t have your partner check your homework or teach you at home. It's not their job!

Since UAB was established in 2015, we have met hundreds of mixed couples – where one was born in Israel and the other moved here and speaks Hebrew as a second language. It’s a huge cultural and mental challenge, so try to ease the language part of it. Follow the above tips, and at least in terms of language, your journey will be easier.

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