Last week the whole country laughed at Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s speech at the Bundes conference in Washington. Smotrich decided to give a speech in English, a language that is clearly not familiar to him. I don’t know who was the public relations person who advised him to do such nonsense.
Smotrich is known to all of us as a well-oiled Hebrew speaking machine. His language is clear, he is eloquent, engrossing, he speaks on the highway, it is almost impossible to put a word to his fluency. He uses imagery and rich language and conveys his message and views to the listeners. Why would a person like him want to appear in front of a respectable audience of English speakers in a broken language? Israeli insolence, “patient” boldness or simply a disturbance in judgment? Even with a teleprompter you need to know how to speak, and I assume that the minister read the text through him.
I grew up in a home with a polyglot father, who spoke about six or seven languages, including writing and reading with correct pronunciation, and always encouraged us to learn languages. Thanks to him, I speak several languages, although not as perfectly as my late father. When I lecture on medical topics to an English-speaking professional target audience, I lecture in the English language without difficulty, but when I was invited to lecture at an international conference on philosophical topics – it didn’t even occur to me Dealing with the text in English or French I went ahead and asked the conference organizers to provide me with a simultaneous translator, and I gave the lecture in the language in which I feel most comfortable and in which I can express my musings to the ears of those who hear them in the best way – the Hebrew language.
Culture passes through language. Most of us, as “Zavers”, who learned English in school, did not have the opportunity to practice the language in conversation, therefore, even if we read and write the language, the vocabulary is limited, the accent is very Israeli, and overall the spoken language is quite poor.
When meeting a person, we refer not only to his appearance but also to his language. Sloppy, poor or wrong language leaves a less good impression. A person like Smotrich, who comes to represent a country and certainly himself, is better off bringing with him a simultaneous interpreter who will be able to convey along with the verbal message also the culture expressed in the style and the vocabulary and images. With his rich Hebrew language, he would have swept his listeners and conveyed the message and would not have become a hoax and italola, a joke to the Americans and to the people sitting in Zion and bursting with laughter.
If the minister did use a communications consultant who advised him to stand on stage and stutter his speech – I strongly recommend him to replace that consultant, preferably one hour earlier.