Thursday, August 12, 2010


I'm back. Upon return I found a large backlog, an even larger forelog (is there such a word?), and not much time for any of them. So blogging may be a bit slow.

We spent part of the week at an upscale place of great beauty and - by harsh Israeli standards - some tranquility. The kind of place people only come to if they're seeking to be quite off the grid.

It turns out that given the right conditions, lots of people still read books. Who knew? (I mean the kind made of paper, with no hyperlinks and probably mostly no pictures).

Not being accustomed to reading books anymore, I looked around a lot. It occurred to me that the languages spoken in various corners of Israel can be informative. The staff of the hotel, for example, seemed to speak an almost interchangeable mix of Arabic and Hebrew. The guests spoke Hebrew, French (those would be tourists), some English (but not too much; English speakers apparently aren't attracted to calm); and rather a lot of Russian: these are the almost penniless but highly qualified immigrants of 20 years ago who have climbed into the upper middle class and can afford to pay for tranquility.

A month or two ago I was at a large conference of hi-tech entrepreneurs in Jerusalem. The booths set up by the local banks had materials in Hebrew. The ones set up by start-up companies were all in English. The folks wandering the halls spoke Hebrew, and English, and various accents of Asian English. The sessions were all in English. The electronic announcement boards were in English and Chinese.

Israelis who work in hi-tech, by the way, never write e-mails in Hebrew. I've got colleagues with whom I speak only Hebrew, always, but we e-mail back and forth only in English, always.

At the swimming pool I try to go to as often as possible, deep in West Jerusalem, the most common language, obviously, is Hebrew. Yet contrary to what you might think, the follow-up languages are not English or French, but Arabic.


Anonymous said...

glad you had a good time and glad to "have" you back

how does an Israeli keyboard look like?
and how a Russian Israeli English keyboard?
and what will happen to keyboards if your friendship with the Chinese continues to bloom?

or do you have different keyboards for different languages?


Anonymous said...

If you press 'control-shift' you switch alphabets back and forth.

Yaacov, glad to have you back. I do not like it when you need time off.


Anonymous said...

thanks, but then the keys must show several letters?

also I remember when I first started to type a lot in English how long it took me to get up to speed though I always did both German and English on a German keyboard. Still the common sequences of letters are different enough that new sequences of movements have to be get trained into automatic.

I agree on the not liking it ;-)

it feels like one's favourite pub closes down.


milton said...

Where is the calm and tranquility? I'm a constant reader and your secret is safe with me. And with whoever reads the comment section.

Anonymous said...

Great to have you back!

I walked past you this evening on the way home from Maariv and breathed a sigh of relief that you would be back onlone!


Bryan said...

Silke: For reference, this is what a Hebrew keyboard layout looks like:

And a Russian keyboard layout:

Or at least, that's what my keyboard looks like when I set it to Hebrew or Russian. (Apple computers can switch pretty seamlessly from one to another. Very convenient for typing in Hebrew, in my opinion.)

Anonymous said...

thanks for helping me ask the question differently (I have been all through Google and Apple without seeing an image enlightening me) Sorry to be so obnoxious but it touches on what my colleagues in other countries may have had to cope with and I never asked the question.

so, belatedly, here it comes:

how do the keys look like on a keyboard suited for multiscript typing?

Or does it stay all Latin and you have to know Hebrew or Russian or Greek all by heart?
I can imagine how it might be done on a touch screen like the iPad's but on a real physical keyboard more than two languages would make it look pretty crowded and you can't be all of you perfectly blind typers in several languages or are you? or do you go on with the Latin keyboard and just have to know which letter stands for which in the other alphabet? But if I imagine myself doing that synhronizing in modern Greek it seems awfully taxing.


Yaacov said...

Silke -

The technicians can put as many languages into the innards as they wish. The standard keyboard in Israel has English and Hebrew, or English & Hebrew & Arabic. Back in the old days when I had 50-some Russian speakers working under me I was often amused to see their keyboards which had English and Hebrew, and stickers with Cyrilic. One fellow also had Ukrainian, I remember. Kind of got dizzy after a while.

Milton: Mitzpe Hayamim.

DJG - so why didn't you introduce yourself?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Yaacov
I am glad for having been told that it is done by good ol' mechanical means and not as I had imagined that maybe there were lightened keys or any other sophisticated stuff - it had me quite worried on not being up to date ;-)


Anonymous said...

so my fears are vindicated the future for keyboards has arrived
I'm not sure it sounds alluring to me
(the second half of the piece dealing with kids' games does definitely not).

The Promise and Peril of ‘Smart’ Keyboards