Learning A New Language Is Like Climbing the Highest Mountain

After a young friend and I finally went through the hassle of our home state’s airport check-in process a few months back, we began to discuss what crosses we would bear once  we began classes at the University of Haifa International School in Israel.

Now mind you, she and I had to already overcome several obstacles during the process of planning our study abroad adventures. Here, I will digress a little and offer an example of a challenge I had to face in order to achieve the goal I’d set for myself.

Upon receiving acceptance by SDSU Study Abroad and the California State University International Programs offices for the study abroad program I chose, things seemed to flow accordingly — well, until I had to apply for my passport. Since I received advance notice of my acceptance, I was able to submit information and apply for my passport several months in advance. I even paid extra funds for the passport to be expedited.

Then things seemed to suddenly go haywire.

A week before my passport information was supposed to be submitted to the study abroad offices — almost three months after I originally had filled out and submitted the forms — I received a notice that there was a problem. Apparently there was nobody in existence with my name and social security number. The notice proceeded to tell me what was supposed to be the error: the spelling of my name. When I looked at it, not only was the spelling of my name correct, it also matched the original driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate that I had supplied.

Upon further reading of the notice, I was told that I needed to provide additional information to prove I am who I said I was. At this point, I was confused. What more could I provide?

So I contacted the offices, and after several attempts of trying to get through, the person I spoke with said she did not even see where I had even applied for a passport. I was shocked. I had paid almost $300 to have the passport process done and done immediately. Now I was being told that it was all a figment of my imagination?

At this point I did not know what to do. I had no control of the situation. So I decided to turn to my higher source of power.

I must stop and say here that my traveling partner and I are both strong believers in our Christian faith. We believe that if we turn our problems over to Him, who has all power and control, then He will make a way. So that’s what I did.

By the end of that same week, my family contacted me to inform me that my passport had been delivered in the mail. There were no additional questions and I didn’t have to do anything else. It was as if I had never received that notice at all!

This is just one example of the various travails she and I had gone through. Some were extremely worrisome and some were trivial, but it seemed like there was something new every other week, up until the time for us to board the plane. Each time there was trouble, she and I would contact one another, rely on our faith, and somehow it would work itself out. We began to travel the path of being overcomers.

So now here we were at the airport, sitting and deciding what mountain we’d face next. Would it be just a bump, a hill, or a large mountain to overcome? We both knew that for our programs it was mandatory to study a language. It was during this time that we made our final decisions. She chose to climb mountain known as the Arabic language, and I chose the mountain of Hebrew Language. By this time, we had been through so many obstacles and we knew through our faith that we were warriors and overcomers of obstacles.

A week after our arrival, the climb began.

I remember during the first few weeks of school, I dressed to impress. I did my hair, makeup and wore nice “mountain climbing gear” (outfits) to the Hebrew language conflict each day. By the second month, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I estimate that out of the 30 Hebrew language mountain climbers in class, there may have been half of us surviving climbers remaining.

Many of us were even beginning to wear war paint, pose for funny and crazy pictures, and just do weird things because we were slowly seeming to lose our minds. My climbing gear was beat up, the makeup had worn away, my hair was left undone in an Afro-style bush and I was was beginning to feel physically bruised up from each level I climbed.

By the third month, I began to dream and hallucinate in the Hebrew language. I knew I was crazy then. I would dream that the Hebrew language monsters were trying to attack me in my bed. I had dark circles under my eyes.

By this time, I was going into the rockiest areas without any climbing gear left — just whatever I could find to put on. There were 10 of us mountain climbers now left in my class. Each day our Hebrew mountain climbing champion, teacher and guide, Mrs. Chava, met us with the morning battle cry, “Boqr Tov (good morning) class!” Then the journey would commence. After a couple hours of roughing it, she would send us back to the camp to regroup and with additional mountain trail plans (homework) to study so we would be able to attack the Hebrew language again the next day.

At the end of the semester, the climb finally ended. We had reached the top. We had survived. I was weak but still alive.

I remember walking along one day and realizing that I could find my way around the treacherous mountain trails because I now could read Hebrew. It instantly appeared to me. When riding the elevator, I no longer got lost because I now understood messages and directions given in Hebrew. What previously looked like hieroglyphics drawings of the Hebrew language had started to look normal!

On the last day of reaching the crest of the mountain my comrades and I all stood together, worn, tired, and hurting — but alive and proud! We had survived. I was able to do a speaking presentation with a co-climber for 10 minutes, and we did it all in Hebrew. Was it perfect? No. But we accomplished the mission!

Our teacher was proud. By no means am I now perfect in the language. I did not win the race to the top, but I had won and overcome my first climb of the Hebrew language mountain. Our class champion and teacher successfully equipped me to attack the Hebrew language better in my next semester.

So even though we were weak and tired, we stood tall and proud as the Hebrew Language Mountain Climbing Warriors of the Fall 2017 semester at the University of Haifa International School. We had accomplished something that we previously doubted we could achieve!

After speaking with my traveling companion, I found she had done the same in her Arabic language climb. After previously having to overcome so many obstacles, we were ready to go into this race strong. We knew that through our faith, determination, dedication and perseverance, we could again be overcomers.

The message to my fellow students, and anyone else reading this blog, is when you battle life’s obstacles — even learning a new language — make sure to bring the climbing tools of determination and perseverance. Stay focused and dedicated in achieving your goal and don’t let anyone distract you from accomplishing your task — you’ll be amazed at what will happen.

By sharing this story, I am saying, “yes you can!” Choose to be an overcoming warrior.

Elizabeth Jones is a transfer student majoring in criminal justice and international security and conflict resolution (ISCOR). She is studying at University of Haifa in Israel for an entire academic year.

3 thoughts on “Learning A New Language Is Like Climbing the Highest Mountain

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  1. I love this post! I’ve been learning German for the past 5 years now and it always seems like a struggle to keep improving. Your analogies about climbing a mountain to learn a language are so perfect. Congrats on learning more everyday and feeling proud of your accomplishment! Are you continuing to study Hebrew?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lexie. I am appreciative that you enjoyed reading my blog. Yes, I will be continuing my studies of the Hebrew language. I love it. It is a very difficult language to learn being that there is the older biblical Hebrew and ancient language and there is a generational form of Hebrew based on the different cultures of Jews. In other words, there are Israeli Jews, Ethiopian Jews, and Arabs that mix Hebrew and Arabic together. So, it is tough but it is a challenge I am learning to love taking on. I will do my second semester here studying the language along with classes for my major. I hope all is well there. I do miss home and the students very much. However, I am having a blast being here and learning so many things and having my eyes opened on topics that we are kept blind to or receive limited information on in our own country. See you in July…hopefully.

    Liked by 2 people

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