So the Israeli foreign exchange student came last night. He seems pleasant so far. He's the same age as us, and is studying medicine (duh). I was so strong and I waited a whole 45 minutes before I started pestering him about the languages he speaks. I was reading up on the language situation in Israel yesterday, and I learned that 20% of the population are native Arabic speakers-- usually people who were in the area before it became Israel, or people who immigrated there from surrounding Arab countries. My original assumption was that he would be a native Hebrew speaker, but then I saw this and know there was a 1 in 5 chance that it would be Arabic. And it is!
But he's also fluent in Hebrew, obviously.
This is fun. I made him demonstrate all the crazy Arabic consonants, like these fricatives that are velarized and pharyngealized AT THE SAME TIME. For the non-linguistics people, that's kind of like making the 'th' sound in "the," while also closing up your throat to make the -ng sound in a word like "sing." Craaaaaazy. He admits, "this will require training for you to learn." But he doesn't understand why I can't hear or make word-initial glottal stops or why I can't make uvular stops. Psh. My next project for him is to make voiced pharyngeal fricatives for me.
He seems nice enough. He brought us a gift-- a CD of traditional Israeli songs. (The CD opens on the opposite side... you know, since Hebrew is read right to left. ;) He really likes the cat. Jet lag kept him awake last night long after we went to bed. He told us this morning that he tried to let the cat sleep with him in our-office-turned-his-bedroom, but that she kept attacking his feet all night. Haha. We should have warned him.
I have so many questions for him, becasuse I just don't know anything about the Middle East except what American news reports, which is just like "[abstract politcal terms] blahblah war fighting blabhlah [names of leaders] blabhalh failed peace talks" etc. I want to ask him things like how the wars affect the average people, and not the governments, or why he thinks the area can't achieve peace, or what life is like for the people living on the borders, and what kind of alliances Arabic speakers/Muslims have if they were born and raised in Israel, and if most people have strong political opinions or if they are like Americans in not knowing much of the details, or how people decide which politicans to vote for, and what Israel thinks about America's support. But these are serious things. I can't really be like "hi, nice to meet you, what do you want for breakfast tomorrow? Oh, and by the way, can you explain your opinions on your country's current political climate?"
In the meantime, I'll just keep bothering him about sound systems until he gets used to me.