Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A binder by any other name

New oleh parents often face numerous hurdles as they slowly learn to navigate Israel’s education system, and these challenges are only exacerbated by the fact that every. single. teacher – yes, even within the same school! – insists on using different terminology.

Take, for instance, gym class.

In Hebrew, it’s alternatively referred to as hitamlut (התעמלות - literally, exercise or gymnastics), sport (ספורט – literally, sports), or chinuch gufani (חינוך גופני - physical education).

And science class isn’t too much better.

I still recall how one of the Shiputzim kids, who was then in first grade, came home confused, because the homeroom teacher called it mada’im (מדעים – literally, sciences) while the science teacher called it teva (טבע – literally, nature).

But the classic example has got to be the ubiquitous plastic binder:IMG_2031

A mainstay of Israeli school supply lists, it’s used as a cover for papers, projects, and reports and – in the younger grades - also as a simple folder.

What’s the Hebrew word for “binder,” you ask?

Ay, there’s the rub.

Because over the years, the Shiputzim kids’ assorted teachers have used all of the following:

  • Klassair (קלסר - from the French “classeur,” meaning, IINM, file or binder)
  • Klassair shakuf (קלסר שקוף - transparent klassair)
  • Klassair chatzi-shakuf (קלסר חצי-שקוף semitransparent klassair)
  • Klassair tzivoni (קלסר צבעוני – colored klassair)
  • Tikiyah (תיקייה – file or folder)
  • Tikiyah shkufah (תיקייה שקופה – transparent tikiyah)
  • Tikiyah chatzi-shkufah (תיקייה חצי-שקופה – semitransparent tikiyah)
  • Tikiyah tzivonit (תיקייה צבעונית – colored tikiyah)
  • Shkafkefet (שקפקפת – from the word shakuf, i.e. transparent)

And so, I turn to you, Mr. Education Minister*, in the name of new – and not so new – olim across the country.

Just as you decreed that school uniforms would be the norm, maybe now’s the time to introduce uniform standards for pedagogical terminology?

I’m just saying…


Which terms do your children’s teachers prefer?


*What?? He MIGHT be a devoted Our Shiputzim reader. It could happen… ;-)


  1. I had NO idea what these were on the list (My daughter is just started kitah aaleph) so I went to the store to ask. They said binder. I thought it was a little odd that my first grader should need 9 of what I thought of as binders so I double checked with another mother- thank goodness I did! We had this issue on a few supplies but after her first day my daughter came home and told me we had everything right. I was rather ridiculously proud of myself.

  2. My daughter's teacher calls it a Tikiyah Chalon.

  3. I've been here 14 years and I still almost got my tenth grade son the wrong kind of paper the other day. Luckily I had my daughter with me to correct me.

  4. Drat and double-drat! This is one of the few Hebrew words I really thought I knew well!!

    Dd1 and I just talked about it last week, buying school supplies. She has always said "klasair" because that's what they said in her day school. I pointed out that it didn't sound like a Hebrew shoresh, but because we're in Canada, I saw the French word was printed right on the binder, so I knew it was a European origin.

    Now I will have to disillusion her. And me. I guess we don't know it all after all. :-)

  5. Rachel - Good for you! :-)

    Anonymous - Interesting. I've never heard that one.

    Malke - "the wrong kind of paper"
    I didn't even know that there's more than one kind of paper... :-)

    Jennifer in MamaLand - No, you and your daughter are right! קלסר is pronounced "klasair" exactly as you wrote it!

  6. I know you appreciate this kind of subtlety--in our school it's called a tikiat shekef (not shakuf). Had no idea about most of the other names.

  7. I love it when Hebrew uses French words; it makes me feel knowledgeable. Maybe this is an idea for a post.

  8. I find this with a lot of things here, that there is not just one word for something and things are often named after the brand. In my art class people were buying easels but referred to them by the brands, so i had no idea what they were going on about.

  9. Mother in Israel - Isn't it amazing that Hebrew has so many names for a flimsy piece of plastic which costs less than a shekel?! :-)

    Ilana-Davita - I thought you might appreciate that part! :-) And that DOES sound like a good idea for a post...

    Orit - Good point about the brand names. צבעי פנדה (oil pastels) are a classic example. BTW, could you please send me an email to OurShiputzim at gmail dot com? There's something I would like to ask you about your website. Thanks.

  10. Mrs. S. - I knew I was pronouncing it right... just didn't know there were so many different words!

  11. How strange - in our schools (so far) a klasair always refers to a ring binder - these things you're talking about are tikiot shkufot. My most proud mothering moment was the year that I realized that I should ignore the number of these written on the list, and just buy a huge bulk pack of 20 in the beginning of the year - I can't count the times that my kids came home and suddenly, urgently needed one for the next day. Or for that same day :)

  12. Jennifer in MamaLand - I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are a few more names as well... :-)

    Toby - A ring binder (aka a looseleaf) is called a "klassair" here too, which only adds to the confusion... :-)

  13. *love* this post! who knew?! is it wrong to lol at all of the confusion?! :)

  14. Very very good post, as I have been here many years, but only when my children went to school did I encounter all these terms
    What we say is like what MII says.

    However, part 2 is the colors!!!

    In our schools you are told to buy certain colors for the folders! (a red one, an orange one etc), 5 or 6 different colors, sometimes quite strange ones, however, the shops do not always have all of the colors that the schools ask for, as these come in large packets. So you look around, and then after you buy all of these, it turns out that the class teacher was not on the same wavelength as the person who wrote the list, and she wants different colors for each subject!

    (which is close to the different colors of notebook covers one is asked for)

  15. After seeing several kids all the way through the school system, I never know if the "klasser" asked for is the "tjin type" or the looseleaf, and I check with the teacher if needed. DEFINATELY a MISHMASH!
    And the first time PE got called "SPORT" I mistook it for "sifrut" (literature)

  16. Minnesota Mamaleh - LOL away! It's what I do... :-)

    Keren - You have to buy specific colors?! All I can say is: I'm VERY glad that (so far) none of the Shiputzim kids' teachers came up with that one... :-)

    Rickismom - Great story about sifrut/sport! :-)

  17. We also have to buy 5 different colors, but they weren't hard to find. Sometimes I switch with a friend, but this year I was low. As noted it's important to have extras. But they last for several years, generally (especially when they are barely touched!)

  18. MiI - "But they last for several years, generally (especially when they are barely touched!)"
    Very true! There's always some "בלאי" but most of them last from one year to the next.


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