My wife asked me the other day:
"Why are all your emails written in English?"
I had the pleasure of working for Israeli startups as well as for more established Israeli high-tech companies.
In both of these organizations, the only language written in emails is one: English.
For 99% of the employees, English is not their mother tongue. As you can probably guess from reading my blog - it isn’t mine as well.
We speak, think and dream in Hebrew. We express ourselves best in Hebrew. We read faster in Hebrew. We understand Hebrew better. We have a bigger vocabulary. Hebrew is everywhere.
Except for emails. They are still written in English. Even when one team mate emails another - they both speak native Hebrew, but their email exchanges will be written in English. Weird, right!?Why English?
If the emails are less effective in English, why is this the prefered language for Israeli companies? Here’s my ideas:
- Vocabulary. The startup/computers/technical world has its own vocabulary. Not every word has a match in Hebrew. It’s more clear for us to use the original word instead (Examples: “Startup”, “MVP”, “Commit”, “Java”, “Compile”, “Protected Field”).
- Technical issues. Mixing Hebrew and English in a single sentence is painful. Hebrew is written from right-to-left and English is written the opposite: left-to-right. Combining both causes a lot of unwanted errors in emails and even the cursor gets confused sometimes.
- Sharing. Some emails might be forwarded later to an English speaker. Instead of translating the entire thread at that point, we keep the emails in English.
- Practice. I think a lot of employees just uses it as a way to practice their English.
I too use English for almost all my emails. There are a few emails I do write in Hebrew.When “to Hebrew”?
- Important. The side effect of all this is that Hebrew emails stand out. So whenever I want to get people’s attention - I use Hebrew.
- Clarity. I’m more clear and people understand my messages better when I write in Hebrew.
- Non work. If I know my emails will never be forwarded to a non-Hebrew speaker, I might write in Hebrew.
Is this only an Israeli thing?