Israel: studying Hebrew through Tel Aviv graffiti

Guy Sharett's 'itinerant' method

18 November, 18:09

    (ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 18 - Israeli linguist and language teacher Guy Sharett has come up with a new method to teach the notoriously difficult Hebrew to his students, using graffiti on Tel Aviv's walls, plaques and signs. He takes them to the city's once dilapidated Florentine quarter, now popular for its nightlife. The idea has been growing in popularity for the past two years, and every week (normally Friday afternoon) groups of students of all ages and nationalities take a walk through Florentine's historic streets, pausing before graffiti and writings that have been carefully selected to understand ''Israeli society through signs and popular culture''.

    ''There has not yet been,'' said Sharett in good Italian, which he studied in Florence, ''a revolution in language teaching. The time has come to come out of the closed environment of schools and out from behind desks.'' Those he called ''survivors of Ulpan'' (the traditional course for those wanting to study Hebrew) seem to agree with him.

    ''I started out with an announcement on my Facebook page,'' said Sharett, a descendent of the family of Moshe' Sharett, a Labour Party leader who was one of Israel's founding fathers and prime minister between 1953 and 1955. ''To my surprise, 20 people came to the first appointment. Since then, more and more have been coming.'' Sharett's 'linguistic' tour varies from one day to the next, but sometimes comes across graffiti on one of the area's walls depicting the unmistakeable silhouette of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism. The slogan - which appears below the portrait and is the most well-known of those on the creation of Israel - 'If you want it, it isn't a dream', has been transformed into 'If you don't want it, you don't need it'.

    Armed with a plastic blackboard, Sharett explains the Hebrew words to the students, notes their linguistic ties and teaches the ''political meaning'' of the graffiti. Another example used in this new form of instruction are the municipal manholes: the oldest ones, from 1937, on which the name Yafo (Jaffa) does not appear, and the more recent ones on which it appears next to the current name of the municipality. (ANSAmed).

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