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Learn, Practice, and Perfect Your Hebrew: ‘I Don’t Know’

The StreetWise podcast from TLV1 in Israel can help you use your Hebrew to communicate what you do and do not know

Rose Kaplan
March 22, 2016

Have you ever been to a Shabbat dinner during which an annoying family member won’t stop kvetching about Israeli politics, even though you’re pretty sure he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? And then this same person seems to insinuate, stubbornly, that you should agree? Well, one proper and mature response would be to simply defer and say, “I don’t know.”

It can be hard to take that first step—admitting that you might not know every single thing about the historical origins of the Likkud party. But once you do, there are so many fun and different ways to tell folks that you don’t actually know everything, as Guy Sharrett explains in this week’s selection from his StreetWise Hebrew podcast.

Or, just go for it. Stand up for yourself. Be rude. Be emphatic. Say, “Me-efo ani yodea?” (or me-efo li lada’at? for women), meaning “How should I know?” Wanna be self-deprecating? Soften your rhetoric with the very idiomatic “Ani yodea, ani?” meaning, “What do I know?” And if you’re a tourist on the streets of Jerusalem, trying to find your way to the Western Wall, you can always start a question with “yesh lecha ulay musag…?” meaning, “Do you happen to know…?”

Want more help getting your in-laws to shut about about politics? Well, I’m sorry, but ein li musag ma osim (“I don’t have a clue what to do”). In the meantime, rely on the following episode of StreetWise Hebrew, entitled “I Don’t know.”

As always, as you listen, follow along with the words and phrases below.

Ani lo yodea, ani lo yodaat – I don’t know – אני לא יודע, אני לא יודעת

(An’)lo yode’a – I don’t know – אנ’)לא יודע)

Ani mamash lo yodea (Anmamashlodea) – I really don’t know – אנ(י) ממש ל(א י)ודע

Kshe’at omeret “lo” – When you say “no” – “כשאת אומרת “לא

Ani kvar lo yodea – I don’t know any more – אני כבר לא יודע

Kshe-isha omeret lo – When a woman says “no” – “כשאישה אומרת “לא

Hi mitkavenet le-“lo” – She means no – “היא מתכוונת ל”לא

Me-efo ani yodea – How should I know? – ?מאיפה אני יודע

Me-efo li lada’at? – How should I know? – ?מאיפה לי לדעת

Me-efo ani eda – How would I know? – ?מאיפה אני אדע

Ani yodea, ani? – What do I know? – ?אני יודע, אני

Ein li musag ma osim – I don’t have a clue what to do – אין לי מושג מה עושים

Musag – Term – מושג

Ein li musag – I don’t have a clue – אין לי מושג

Yesh lecha ulay musag – Do you happen to know – יש לך אולי מושג

Yesh lecha ulay musag efo… – Do you happen to know where… – …יש לך אולי מושג איפה

Ein li shemetz shel musag – I don’t have a shred of a clue – אין לי שמץ של מושג

Ana aref? – Do I know? How would I know? m. (Arabic) – אנא עארף – أنا عارف

Ana arfa? f. (Arabic) – אנא עארפה – أنا عارفه

Rose Kaplan is an intern at Tablet.