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September 10, 1993 - Image 147

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-09-10

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Liz Williamson has used her
command for language in
developing a new business.

A Presbyterian living in
Sterling Heights, Ms.
Williamson had no ground-
ing in the language. In addi-
tion to learning her
alephbet, grammar and sen-
tence structure, Ms.
Williamson studied prayers
and blessings.
She has traveled to Israel
twice and now serves as an
executive board member on
the American-Israel
Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Williamson's trips to
Israel, along with her
increasing skill in Hebrew,
have developed into a new
On each visit to Israel,
Ms. Williamson has sched-
uled interviews with small
manufacturers to learn
about their products. Most
of the connections were cre-
ated through her work with
the Chamber of Commerce.
She works with many of
those business owners, aid-
ing in marketing and export
to the United States.
Ms. Williamson
deals with the
Israelis primarily
in English.
However, she is
purchasing a
Hebrew font for
her personal com-
puter and writes
all faxes and
memos in Hebrew.
"I think my
speaking the lan-
guage really paid
off. It helps break
the ice," Ms.
Williamson said.
"And when the
Israelis come to
the United States
for business, after
taking them out to
dinner and to a
Pistons game, I
ask them to check
my homework."
Nira Lev,
Midrasha instruc-
tor and Agency for
Jewish Education
Hebrew language
consultant and lab
coordinator, is not
surprised by the
numbers of stu-
dents enrolling or
their success.

Debra Darvick hopes her learning will send a message to her children.

A native Israeli, Ms. Lev
came to Detroit with her
husband in 1972.
She had taught English
as a second language to
Israeli soldiers and began
teaching Hebrew in the
United States. She applied
all the same methods and
Rather than forcing stu-
dents to listen and repeat,
Ms. Lev instructs by what
she refers to as contrastive
"Adults don't learn like
children. This is a more con-
scious approach. It identi-
fies the difficulties and
interferences of learning a
second language. And it
builds on what you know of
your native tongue," Ms.
Lev said.
For example, Ms. Lev will
point to various objects in
the classroom, say the
Hebrew word, write the
word and repeat it.
Students identify the sound
and look of the word with its
object. Her approach is one
of "listen, speak, read and
She encourages students
to speak in Hebrew about
more than just the weather.
So in the process of learning
the language, adults are dis-
covering the dreams, hopes,
ideas and travels of their
fellow students.
Along with teaching the
language both in its written
and spoken forms, Ms. Lev
interjects class time with

Israeli history and culture.
"Language is just a mir-
ror of culture," she said. "It's
a way to have a greater
Ms. Lev is realistic in her
approach. While the
Midrasha has grown from
one Hebrew class in 1973 to

"Adults don't
learn like
children. This is
a more conscious

Nira Lev

15 in 1993, Ms. Lev doesn't
try to fool her students with
imaginary hopes. Learning
twice a week for 15 weeks
will not make them fluent
enough to engage in
involved conversation with
the average Israeli, but it
will improve their under-
standing and speaking abili-
Debra Darvick isn't look-
ing for a quick fix to the lan-
A mother of two living in
Birmingham, Ms. Darvick
hadn't studied Hebrew since
her freshman year of college
18 years ago — until she
met Nira Lev.
Ms. Darvick always loved
languages and majored in
French and Spanish. She

especially enjoyed Hebrew
for its logical, mathematical
approach — all related
words stemming from a
common root.
So when her son, Elliot,
began learning Hebrew at
Hillel Day School last year,
Ms. Darvick decided to get
educated, too.
"I found with the abilities
I had I could keep up with
him, but the time was
rapidly approaching when
he would completely blow
me away," Ms. Darvick said.
"I wanted to show him the
importance of the language.
So he's seeing me devoting
my time to it."
Elliot is probably more
fluid, reading without vow-
els and more quickly.
However, his mother knows
more conversational, rather
than Torah, Hebrew. They
enjoy testing each other's
skill. But Ms. Darvick
admits, "It seemed a lot eas-
ier learning French in high
In addition to studying
Hebrew to keep up with her
son, and soon her daughter,
Emma, Ms. Darvick views
her education as a part of
her own Jewish survival.
"I think that's why a lot of
adults are returning to the
classes and the temples and
the synagogues. I think it's
survival that exists in the
collective conscious or sub-
conscious," she said. "We
know that if we don't make
the effort, we'll be gone." ❑

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