An Interview With Omri Vinograd

Shalom Omri!
Could you please introduce yourself briefly to our readers?

Hello dear readers, My name is Omri Vinograd. I come from Haifa, Israel, and I´m 25 years old. I´m a Hebrew teacher, and now I am writing my first newspaper. I hope you will like it.

How did you come up with the idea of becoming a Hebrew teacher?

One year ago, I was unemployed for a month. During my last trip home, one of my roommates suggested that I could teach Hebrew. Initially, I didn’t want to tell him directly, but I thought it was a really stupid idea. Berlin is full of Israelis and Jews who already know Hebrew, so I thought not many people would be interested in learning the language. I told him exactly that, thinking we wouldn’t talk about it again. However, he managed to convince me to write a classified ad. I was very skeptical and wrote it in a rather funny way:

“Shalom! Do you want to learn Hebrew? Maybe you’re Jewish yourself, or you have a Jewish grandma? Or perhaps you’d like to flirt with Israeli women or men? Maybe you’re just interested in the language! Everything’s cool! Hebrew is my mother tongue, and I can help you learn it.”

I was very surprised when my roommate actually posted the ad. He said it sounded a bit silly but also funny, and that’s what mattered. We put it in the right context and wrote more about me and the lessons. That’s when people started calling me. My first student was eight years old, and my German level at that time was B1. It means that I could speak and understand a little. I was very scared because I had never spoken German with children, and I believed they wouldn’t understand me due to my limited German skills or my accent. After the lesson, the mother of my new student called me and asked about my certification. “Unfortunately, I don’t have one,” I replied. “Then how could it be that you are so good?” she asked. “Both of my grandmothers and a few of my aunts and uncles are teachers. Maybe it’s in my DNA” I answered. “I want to be your student too,” she said. The rest is history. Until now, I have had more than 100 students.

What are the qualities of a good language teacher?

Everyone has their own method, and I respect all teachers. Personally, I find it important to teach as much as possible to the students in a short time. That’s why I focus only on the most important things in the beginning. I start my lessons with a ten-minute short conversation. Israelis don’t care if you tell them you’re learning Hebrew if you can’t ask or answer, “How are you?” What use are the letters then? Then I teach all the letters, which takes two lessons. After that, I teach the vowel signs in two more lessons. This means that after four hours of instruction, my students can read – of course, without understanding yet. My students are always skeptical when I tell them this, but in the end, they manage to do it! I think it’s related to my own experience because I also moved to Germany without knowing German. I worked at “Edeka” (supermarket) back then and could only speak a few sentences. So, I decided to learn only what was important for working at “Edeka.” In this way, I hoped to be able to communicate with the people there in the shortest time possible. And I succeeded! After two months, I worked at the cash register. Before that, I was a helper in the warehouse. That’s why I’m able to filter out and teach only the most important topics at first. The rest can be learned later.

My most important tip: As a beginner, it’s better not to learn much grammar. Learn only what is important – vocabulary and the present tense. Then Israelis will understand you even without grammar. Later, when you have a lot of vocabulary, you can also learn grammar. The past tense is not important in the beginning. At “Edeka,” I always spoke in the present tense and talked about experiences or my day, and then mentioned that it happened in the past.

I believe the next question will interest many people: Why Germany?

Simply because I wanted to find myself… It wasn’t easy for me to figure out that I wanted to become a teacher. I mean, some people know from early age what they want to do professionally. That wasn’t the case for me. If I hadn’t had my roommate, I might have never thought about becoming a teacher. In Israel, I didn’t have stability, and for years I feared not knowing who I am and what I want to be. I changed jobs every three to four months within two years. It wasn’t beneficial for me personally, and it didn’t look good on my resume. At that time, my brother lived in Munich, and when the Corona epidemic started, I knew it´s now or never. I received my visa to Germany within a day. I had never been so spontaneous and so crazy in my life. After making the decision, it took a month, and I moved to a completely unfamiliar country. My family bet that I would fly back to Israel with my suitcases within two weeks. Unfortunately, due to Corona epidemic and many other problems I faced in Germany, it took a year and seven months until I saw my family again for the first time. But I still live in Germany.

What is your goal in life? What is your dream?

When I was a child, I dreamed of getting to know all the people in the world. Today, I still dream of constantly meeting new people, especially successful ones, and working and executing projects with them. Currently, my goal is to publish the newspaper worldwide. 

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