So I'm currently taking driving lessons to convert my American License to an Israeli one. There's no such thing as a learner's permit in Israel; rather, every new driver has to take about 24 expensive lessons before getting a license, and foreign drivers like me still must take a few lessons before getting official Israeli permission to venture on to the road.
My driving teacher, being Israeli, talks on his cell phone constantly while I drive. Today, he suddenly shouted,"Brrake! Brrake!" just as I was about to move through a traffic circle. I braked. Turned out he was greeting an Arab guy named "Berake" on the phone... oy.
But it could have been worse. He told me about an Argentinian-Israeli driving teacher who was speaking Spanish to someone in the back seat while an Israeli student was driving. The Israeli student came to a traffic circle, and heard her instructor suddenly say, "Si!" (As in, "Si, senora.")
The problem: in Hebrew, "si" is the imperative form of "drive," as in, "Get into the intersection now? What are you waiting for??" The student shrugged it off, because it obviously wasn't a good time to enter the traffic circle.
However, at the next intersection, she again heard the command for her instructor: "Si!" This time, she assumed that she must have done something wrong in stopping and looking to see who was coming.
So at the next traffic circle, when she heard "Si," she floored it-- shooting out into traffic and narrowly saved from collision by her instructor slamming on his brake.
This story almost comforted me when my driving instructor grabbed the steering wheel and tried to push me into a U-turn (I didn't understand the command to do a parsa-- horseshoe.)
Ah, the joys of living in a multi-lingual society!
Ali Abunimah, Expert On Mental Illness
3 hours ago