Language and Culture

Orly Kayam


The study focuses on Ethiopian Jewish women’s struggles with language usage and social adaptation. The study aims to (a) evaluate the importance of knowledge and usage of Amharic in their daily lives, (b) evaluate the importance of knowledge and usage of Hebrew in their daily lives and (c) identify the differences in Israeli and Ethiopian Jewish cultures. The study was based on data collected and analyzed from a questionnaire that was distributed to a class of Ethiopian Jewish women who study English at a school in Netanya, Israel. The findings showed that while all of the participants speak Amharic, there are differences in literacy in Amharic among them. All of them have difficulties in Hebrew, but see Hebrew as the vehicle for upward mobility within Israeli society. They view Israeli culture as one that is lacking in politeness, respect and dignity, which is very much part of the fabric of the Ethiopian Jewish lifestyle. There is also a strong desire to preserve the past by preserving their language. This study promotes a new dimension to the study of Ethiopian Jewish women (Kayam & Hirsch, in press) in that it adds to the study of language acquisition in the immigrant setting.

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