Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Language primer

Is it just me, or is there a tendency in foreign language primers to indulge in rank stereotyping?

I'm studying beginning (modern) Hebrew, and here are two items from my book:


Woman in striped pants: "Are you from Israel?"

Strangely clad couple: "No, from Ireland."

Do Irish people go around in tweed suits and plus fours? The guy is dressed like James Joyce in Zurich in 1917.

There's also sex-based stereotyping. This next drawing depicts Adam and Eve (Chava):


The assignment is to describe what's happening in the pictures. The answer?

"Adam studies Torah. Eve studies English."

You gotta love that Eve, always plucking fruit from the tree of knowledge.

So why is there a tendency to stereotype in language primers? Is it because they're generally geared toward kids?

Wait what am I saying -- more stereotyping in books geared toward kids?

Now I'm sorry we tossed the Hebrew primers that I used in "Sunday" school at Beth-El. They, at least, featured rocket ships.

And what's this about (re)learning Hebrew? Thinking about re-doing your Bar Mitzvah?

lxyaprp (licks ya prep) - a meat-flavored hand cream for dog-owners. "For Spot"
awright. you *did* want at least one serious response, right? like: "stereotypes are used because the pictures must convey a clear message in order to serve their pedagogical purpose. stereotypes, by tapping into our most widely shared expectations, offer the clearest message."

there, was that pedantic enough for you?


sigjbyut - apopular local brand of cigarettes from southern india
I don't get the stereotype in the second one.
Could someone explain how the second one is a stereotype?
historically, women were forbidden to study Torah (geez, did NONE of you see "Yentl"???)
dyvpv (dive-peev): the annoyance one feels when one is the victim of a "cannonball" in the community pool.
Anon: always look for context clues in the blog post itself. Here, "You gotta love that Eve, always plucking fruit from the tree of knowledge." Plus you have to know the story of Adam and Eve, which itself is the archetype of gender stereotyping: man is pious, woman is curious and leads man astray. So in the illustration Adam is studying Torah (piety -- the Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament). But Eve is studying English -- a modern language, the study of which is an example of pursuit of useful and practical knowledge rather than piety. The drawing perpetuates the gender stereotyping in the Adam and Eve story itself.

P.S. Please read my comment policy about anonymous comments. (See sidebar.)
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