To take your Hebrew level beyond the confines and acceptable norms of the classroom and to reach mastery, you must be willing to study R-rated topics. I refer to this study method as R-rated Hebrew language learning, but in reality, it’s probably closer to PG-13. It’s completely understandable that a university Hebrew instructor would not touch on topics of sexuality, drug use, constipation, or making fun of adopting a dwarf when you still need to cover core subjects and Hebrew fundamentals (Foreigncy has done Hebrew lessons on these topics by the way).
However, once you’ve covered your bases, you must start exposing your Hebrew study to subjects that would be taboo in the classroom or that you’d expect to arise in everyday conversation with your family and friends. I’ll admit that studying sex, bodily excretions, and other such topics could be embarrassing if you’re in a group, but it’s even more embarrassing when you claim a level of fluency but don’t know how to say a word or verb that, for better or worse, is part of everyday conversation. One of the strongest memories I have from my Hebrew courses at university is of a teacher refusing to genuinely answer me in class when I asked how to say “to fart” or “to have a bowel movement”. The teacher shyly responded that I’d just say “ללכת לשירותים” even though there are other verbs for what I was asking, some of which aren’t considered crude. Hebrew instructors who are afraid to touch on these subjects are doing their students a disservice, for several reasons:
Reason 1: R-rated topics are part of everyday adult life
To be a well-rounded Hebrew speaker, you must be able to speak candidly about things you do as an adult. Most adults are sexually active and all human beings poop. To ignore and/or neglect this aspect of your Hebrew language learning is to ignore a huge swath of vocabulary and issues that you have no excuse for not knowing. Moreover, being able to speak to adult issues goes beyond friendly banter, it extends to doctor appointments, important relationship conversations, and more.
Reason 2: By studying R-rated topics, you pick up additional and connected vocabulary
Like any topic you focus on in the course of your Hebrew study, you will pick up additional and connected vocabulary. For instance, studying sex addiction will teach you a wide swath of addiction-related vocabulary that you can later apply to other conversations. The additional benefit, of course, is that by studying an R-rated topic such as sex addiction, you’ll be more likely to remember related-vocabulary because the topic stimulated your mind from the start.
Reason 3: You are an adult
At the end of the day, if you’re studying Hebrew at a university, you are an adult and should be treated as such. As an adult student, you’re entitled to study topics and issues that are relevant to your life; anything less and you’re redoing Sunday school. This doesn’t just extend to R-rated topics, it also includes preparing to listen to mainstream Israeli music rather than children’s songs such as La Kova Sheli Shalosh Pinot (My hat has three corners).
R-rated language learning is one of many ways that you can take charge of your pursuit of Hebrew mastery and fill in the gaps that are all too often overlooked. If your instructor will not or can not integrate R-rated language learning into their courses, you still have a number of tools at your disposable. Foreigncy’s Hebrew lessons regularly cover such subjects. You can also throw some words into Google Translate and then search Google or YouTube for related-Hebrew content and study on your own.
Modern Hebrew is a relatively new language and is constantly changing, as are most living languages. Textbooks and standard curriculum should not be the only tools at your disposable. You must be open to R-rated language learning to gain a truly comprehensive vocabulary, but more importantly, you must be willing to own your Hebrew journey and follow it wherever it takes you, even if it requires using the Incognito tab or deleting your browsing history.