In Israel, when we don’t understand something, we say it’s like Chinese, “Ze kmo Sinit”. That’s because Chinese seems like a very complicated language, with wierd letters and even wierder pronunciation of words. When I travelled to China alone a few years ago, I really didn’t understand much of what the locals were saying, but I learned that you don’t really need to understand words to communicate. You just need to smile and use a lot of sign language. But, knowing the local language always gets a larger smile from the locals.
In Israel you can talk in English freely with us locals and many of us will understand you, but as I said, it’s always better to know the locals’ language, and that’s why I’ve decided to post this second post after the first one – “Shalom! 10 Useful Words and Phrases in Israel“. But this time I want to focus on three words: WHERE, WHEN and HOW MUCH (which is one word in Hebrew). When I was a lone traveller in China, I felt that those three words were very useful when searching for the restroom, looking for a specific attraction, waiting in line for a show and bargaining over a nice necklace I wanted. I believe those words would be useful for you while travelling in Israel, too!
In Hebrew, “Where” is “Ei-fo”. If you want to ask “Where is the ____?” you just ask: “Eifo ha-_____?” There is no “is” in Hebrew. “Ha” means “the” and you use it very often when asking the WHERE question, as a prefix of the place or thing you’re looking for. Here are some WHERE questions you might want to ask:
Where is the restroom?
In Hebrew you ask: “Ei-fo ha-shiru-tim?” You will usually find restrooms in restaurants, but then you will likely be asked to buy something to be able to use them. If not, you can sneak in without them noticing. Bars also have restrooms in them. You might have to pay 1-3 Shekels to enter some restrooms at bus stations or other touristic areas.
Where is my hotel?
You probably won’t ask strangers on the street “Where is my hotel?” because they won’t which hotel you’re talking about. On the other hand, you can ask “Where is *the name of your hotel*?” This is very simple. You just ask “Ei-fo…” and put in your hotel’s name. For example, if you’re looking for Abraham Hostel, you can just ask: “Ei-fo Abraham Hostel?”
Where is the bus station?
If you want to ask where is the Central Bus Station, you can ask “Ei-fo ha-mer-ka-zit?” which literally means “Where the Central?” You don’t need to mention buses or stations. Where you say “mer-ka-zit” (“central”), the Israelis will know what you’re looking for and give you directions to the central bus station of the city.
If you’re looking for a specific station that’s not the central station, you should know what bus line you are looking for. When you know your bus line, ask: “Ei-fo ha-ta-cha-na shel kav *your bus number*?” which means “Where the station of line *your bus number*?” “Ta-cha-na” means “station”, “shel” means “of” and “kav” means “line”. But how do you say your bus number in Hebrew? Look into this Wikipedia page and learn the basics.
Where is the train station?
This will come in handy if you’re planning to travel with Israel Railways to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem and so on. You can see the full list of stations in Israel Railway’s official site. The price of a train ticket is similiar to a bus ticket, so if you want to get somewhere faster, the train is the way. If you don’t know where is the train station, ask “Ei-fo ta-cha-nat ha-ra-ke-vet?” As I’ve already mentioned above, “ta-cha-na” is “station”. “Ra-ke-vet” means “train”. We add a “t” to the “ta-cha-na” to show that the station belongs to the train. You can also ask: “”Ei-fo ha-ta-cha-na shel ha-ra-ke-vet?” but that’s longer than the first option.
If you’re in Jeruslaem, the more popular train is the light-train (“Ra-ke-vet ka-la”), which goes through the city itself.
In Hebrew, “When?” is “Ma-tai?” This will be handy for you when waiting in line for something, waiting for your food to arrive in a restaurant or when waiting for a bus or train to arrive. In Israel, not everything comes on time and many times you’ll discover that Israelis have their own time. So, here are some useful WHEN questions for you:
When will it arrive?
“It” can be the food (“O-chel”) you ordered, the package (“Cha-vee-la”) you sent or the bus (“Auto-bus”) you’re waiting for. If the person you’re talking with mentioned the “it”, you can ask in response: “Ma-tai ze ya-gi-ah?” which means “When it will arrive?” But if the other person didn’t mention the “it”, it’s better that you’ll be more specific. If you want to ask when your food will arrive, ask “Ma-tai ha-au-chel ya-gi-ah?” If you want to ask when the package will arrive, ask “Ma-tai ha-cha-vee-la ta-gi-ah?” Why do we say “ya-gi-ah” when we ask about the food and “ta-gi-ah” when we ask about the package? That’s because in Hebrew grammer, the food is masculine and the package is feminine. Maybe I’ll write about gender grammer later on.
And if you want to ask when will your bus arrive, ask: “Ma-tai ya-gi-ah kav *your bus number*?” You can also ask “Ma-tai ma-gi-ah kav *your bus number*?” which means “When arrives line number __?” If you’re not sure if your bus has already passed and you’ve missed it, you can ask: “Kav *your bus number* ah-var?” which means “Line ___ passed?”
When does it start?
“It” can be the show or the event your waiting to start. In Hebrew, ask: “Ma-tai ze mat-chil?” which means “When it starts?” “Ze” means “it” and “mat-chil” means “starts”. You can also ask “Ma-tai ze ya-tchil?” which means “When it will start?”
In Hebrew, “How much?” is “Ka-ma?” It’s important to know how to ask “how much” in Israel, because everything has a price and with this word you can start bargaining, which is widely accepted in Israel. You can negotiate on the prices of the vegetables in the Market (“Shuk”), negotiate on the entrance fee to sites that only accept cash and negotiate on the taxi fee. If you want to ask how much something costs, you can usually be fine with: “Ka-ma ze au-leh?” which means “How much it costs?” If you want to know how much it will cost you to take a ride with a taxi to a specific location, you can ask the driver – before you get on: “Ka-ma ya-ha-le lee le *the name of your destination*?” which means “How much will cost me to *your destination*?” If you don’t like the price, you can try negotiating and lowering the price. “Ya-ha-le” means “will cost”, “lee” means “for me” and “le” means “to”.
You can also use “ka-ma” when asking about time, “how much time will it take?” (“Ka-ma zman ze yee-kach?” or “how much time does it take?” (“Ka-ma zman ze?” or “Ka-ma zman ze lo-ke-ach?”) “Zman” is “time”. If you want to talk in short, you can just ask “Ka-ma zman?” if you want to know how much longer you need to wait, how much time will it take for something to arrive or happen or if you’re just frustrated that whatever is happening is taking too long.
*When I write “ch” it’s supposed to represent the Hebrew letter “ח” or “כ”. It’s a sound coming from within the throat. To hear it, you can enter this site, which I found very useful.
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If you have anything to add or if you want to know how to say some specific thing that doesn’t appear here – you’re welcome to ask in the comments or through my Facebook Page.
Happy days and good luck with your Hebrew studies,