So today I found out that if you ever need an ego boost about your Hebrew skills, you should hang out in an Ulpan.
I visited Milah, a school in Jerusalem's "city center" area that gives intensive Hebrew courses for immigrants. I wanted to sign up for their Level-4 morning class, which meets only twice per week and therefore fits nicely with my work schedule. I knew that Level 5 might be a better fit, but it's only offered in the evenings and conflicts with my weekly meeting with my editor.
I'd told them on the phone that according to the government's post-Ulpan exam, I'm a "high Level 4, for all intents and purposes Level 5," but they said "no, no, we have our own exam which you'll have to take." So today I took it.
According to Milah, I'm in Level 5 bordering on Level 6. That's cool! The lady who graded my exam, who I suppose is used to dealing with people who speak no Hebrew at all, kind of gave me a very impressed look and asked "where did you learn Hebrew?" I said in the States, and in Ulpan Etzion, and she said "which class were you in? The highest one, right? Why do you want more Ulpan?" So I told her that I want to improve more and gain more confidence in speaking, since my comprehension is much better than my spoken Hebrew. I also told her that the only class that fits in my schedule is Level 4. "Your test was great and I can hear that you speak Hebrew very well," she said. "Don't bother taking the Level 4 course. You should take the Short Stories course or the Business Writing course."
In the end I signed up for Short Stories, which meets every other Sunday morning (if enough people sign up) for 6 sessions, at the cost of about $50. Sounds nice.
All I can say is, if this lady thinks my Hebrew is so good, it proves only that she's used to people coming in and not knowing how to say "Ani rotzah Ulpan." Because my Hebrew leaves a lot to be desired. As the secretary said, "You did well on the test so I can explain the registration procedure in easy Hebrew, right?" -- ie in Hebrew, but not with any hard words. Nothing too complicated. The questions at the end of the test, which I got wrong, were pretty much on a 7th-grade reading level.
Still, it's nice to know that someone out there thinks my Hebrew is impressive. I'll take my pats on the back where I can get them.