Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Israeli teenagers - 1; Anglo parents - 0

Parents around the world have discovered that joining Facebook is an excellent way to keep tabs on their kids.

However, if – like me - you’re the Anglo parent of Israeli teenagers, you’re out of luck.

I should begin by noting that the quality of your Hebrew is irrelevant.

You might be perfectly fluent. You might have been first in your ulpan class. You might spend your days lecturing and communicating in Hebrew. Your accent might be impeccable, and people might sometimes mistake you for a native-born Israeli.

In fact, you might even BE a native-born Israeli.

But none of this matters.

You’re STILL not going to be able to understand your Israeli teenager’s Facebook statuses.

First of all, these statuses are filled with made-up words. For instance, Israeli kids write “חחחח” in lieu of LOL and tav-apostrophe instead of the preposition “את”.

Then there are all the deliberately misspelled words. (At least, one HOPES that the spelling mistakes are intentional…) Specifically, teenagers like to add an extra aleph here or there in order to stress the wrong syllables – as in שאווה (SHA-veh), which really should be שווה (sha-VEH - “worth it”).

Roshei teivot (acronyms) also figure prominently, but the catch is that they’re not necessarily based on the first letter of each word. A typical example would be the ubiquitous חבל”ז, which stands for “חבל על הזמן” (literally, “it’s a waste of time” – but frequently used to describe something in a positive light).

Finally, there are all the “blended” words, including kacholavan and classics such as יומולדת (i.e. יום הולדת – birthday).

And, so, dear readers, as you can see, Anglo parents don’t stand a chance against their Israeli kids.

It’s almost as if they speak a foreign language…


Hat tip: Jameel


P.S. Be sure to check out my follow-up to this post here.


  1. Another post I enjoyed.

  2. Thanks, Ilana-Davita. I imagine that you probably sometimes feel the same way when trying to communicate with French teenagers...

  3. good one! i like this and its oh-so-true!!

  4. Laura - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Or perhaps I should say:
    אני מזה שמחה שנהנית

  5. my daughter's facebook status is now;

    וואי אני כ"כ רעבה.......

  6. When I was a teenager we tried to make up words for the sole purpose of confusing our parents.

  7. So, do Israelis make the chet sound when they laugh? If so, do people who speak with a guttural chet laugh with a guttural chet?

  8. Jack - Sorta like Igpay Atinlay, huh?

    Yochanan - Good question. :-)
    All I can tell you is that even in first grade reading books, people laugh with chets and not with heys.
    אבא: ח ח ח ח
    אמא: ח ח ח ח
    דן: ח ח ח ח

  9. Yeah, but how does it sound?

    If I go to an Israel comedy club will it sound like a bunch of people coughing?

  10. Yochanan - I hope you're not disappointed to learn that when Israelis laugh, it sounds like they are, well, laughing...

    (In other words, I have no idea why chet is used rather than hey.)

    Shabbat Shalom!

  11. There is no way I would be able to write Hebrew slang. No way. If I ever moved to Israel, I would just avoid teenagers. That would be my plan. some things you can only understand if you are a part of that generation.

  12. Mrs. S,

    I wasn't expecting it to be so. I guess the chet is just an interpretation of the sound. After all, no English speaker literally says "HaHaHa". Although a Mizrachi-style pharyngeal chet (distinct from a khaf) would make for a good hearty laugh.

    It reminds me of hearing about how roosters in Spanish speaking country's say kikiriki instead of cockediddledoo. However, the roosters I heard in Mexico and Costa Rica sounded like they were saying cockediddledoo. Nevertheless the sound gets interpreted by Spanish speakers as kikiriki.

  13. Jennifer - ".some things you can only understand if you are a part of that generation."
    I agree. But I also think this holds true even when the parents and the teenagers ostensibly speak the same language...

    Yochanan - Similarly, the Hebrew term for cock-a-doodle-doo is "koo-koo-ree-koo" - קוקוריקו.

  14. Yochanon, I think Jameel had a whole post a while back bout the difference of animal sounds in Israel vs America.

  15. The Sabra - Of course that naturally begs the question: What happens when someone brings their pet on aliyah? For example, does their dog switch from "bow wow" to "hav hav"? Is there such a thing as pet ulpan?

  16. Hi, everyone! I just posted another look at Israeli teenagers' Facebook statuses here.


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