The Sound of My Own Voice
I am learning Hebrew. At least, I believe I can use that definition of learn. L’lmed. Lomedet. I learn. I am learning. Off and on and on and off. Again. Ot pam. My level of certainty that I can recreate the sounds in letters that do not belong to them is as equal to the sound the letters should make, unless they remain in my head. And, I apologize for my accented alphabet to be found in the remainder of the blog. . .
The words are in my eyes supported by my memory more than they are in my voice supported by my tongue. I hear the sound the letters should make, but mostly in my head.
At the stoplight I pause to consider Hebrew, its accent, my accent, the sounds in my head. It’s simple when it’s the resulting sounds that don’t match the words instead of the words that don’t match the intent. The key is to surround yourself with those who manage both. That is the true interpreter. I had one, once upon a time. She was a colleague in Guatemala.
I prefer the sounds when they are not cloaked in my voice, when the memory wins and inserts another’s tone. However, in Hebrew, these opportunities are limited. The stoplight turns green. I observe a few speckled gaps in the clusters of bulbs. One word rises against the press of the gas pedal.
“Avatiach,” I once repeated. It took three weeks, to say, “Watermelon.” The mastery of this word was a long time coming, and yet it is one of the truest matches.
The sound of my voice
In my head
Is only right
In my head.
I skim through Level One to prepare for my upcoming Level Two class. I create a stack of flashcards, based on memory. The online version had an audio option. I listened and attempted to trace the sounds from tongue to pencil lines. I lack practice. A language community. For sounds to be heard, they need to be heard. I flip through the flashcards. But, when I flip, I form the words only in my own head. I force myself to say them aloud. In rough whispers, I cannot find the sound of my own voice. Every now and then another’s echoes. When I’m learning, what must others hear?
Do they like the sound of my voice?
“Yom shee shee,” Ofir said. “Friday.” Sweetly.
“Metanah,” Savta said. “Present.” With direction.
“Machberet,” my brother instructed. “Notebook.” Intentionally.
“Beedee ook,” Never seems right, except my teacher says it, no matter which classmate responds. “What does it mean?” she asks?
“Correct,” someone offers.
“Exactly,” I say, and somehow this thin distinction in meaning is wide in practice, but. . .
I am trying to move across the divide, to not worry about what others hear, how others hear, the sound of my own voice.
That voice is hidden, at least somewhat, in the crackle of low Internet bandwidth. The veil of virtual gives me strength to allow my memory to speak and my goal to speak up.
The sound of my voice
In your head
Doesn’t need to be right
To be heard.