Walked into the hardware store to buy a replacement light bulb last week, when suddenly, my Hebrew FAILED.
(Understandable after a week of Purim-related festivities. I could barely speak English by that point!)
“Ani mechapeset... (I’m looking for...)” - blank, sigh, “kazeh (like this),” i said, giving up and holding up the defunct bulb.
(Yes, of course we have gotten smart and learned to bring whatever it is we want with us to the store.)
Good Immigrant Habit #77: When buying something, try to bring along one of the “something” with you when you go to the store. If you don’t have one, bring a picture of it. Or a dictionary. Be prepared to wave your arms and flex your fingertips to show exactly how high, how big, how long. And be prepared; even with all that preparation, they still may not understand.
Cheerful sales dude, “Ah, mivta Amerikani” Big, knowing salesguy smile.
Ha! I thought. I’ve broken through! At last, a salesperson is helpfully telling me the name of what I’m looking for!
I nodded, as if to say, “yes, yes, my good man, go on, lead the way... show me more of these ‘mivta Amerikani’ bulbs.”
Then, as I followed him through the store, I remembered… slowly, it dawned… I knew where I’d heard the word before.
Mivta = accent.
No, he wasn’t talking bulbs at all...he was just talking about my own lousy Hebrew:
= מבטא אמריקני
(also sometimes מבטא אמריקאי)
= American accent
Naturally, I didn’t get into a discourse on how I’m not American. Or how I am Canadian, which really is American, even though what most people here think of as American is the same as what I, in my head, call “United Statesian.”
Nope, I just paid for my bulbs and hightailed it home.