Going Back To Ulpan

So yesterday, I started Ulpan classes to improve my Hebrew language skills (currently, I’m not very skillful with it).


It was 2.5 hours and it was such a joy for me and my wife and one of my daughter to have the wonderful opportunity to participate in this. 


It wasn’t like in Yeshiva where we focused on learning the Biblical and prayer book Hebrew, and on Aramaic from the Talmud, but was more focused on modern-day conversational Hebrew. 


I loved learning and speaking the words, for example to describe a large cosmopolitan city like Tel Aviv. 


We also listened to recordings of others speaking, read the text, and learned verbs. 


It reminded me of my mom, who also used to love to take Ulpan, and carried around her notebook with the Hebrew words and their translation and the many descriptive verbs–she was so happy learning and practicing. 


Given my horrible language skills, it was funny for me that I was asked if I wanted to join the advanced class…ah, no!  (or at least not yet…)


While so many languages (and cultures) have died over the ages, Hebrew and the modern State of Israel is a complete revival–it’s truly miraculous!


There were people in the class from Asia, South America, and all over the world!


And from all the people there, I felt a tremendous love not only for the language, but for the land of Israel, and the Jewish people. 


I wish like this beautiful language we all embraced, everyone could love and not hate us anymore!


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Talk To The Hand

Hand
So you know the saying “Talk to the hand, because the face ain’t home…”?



Well IPSoft has an artificial intelligence agent called Amelia that handles service requests. 



Instead of talking to a human customer service rep, you get to talk to a computer. 



The question is whether Amelia is like talking to a hand or is someone really home when using IA to adroitly address your service issues?



Now apparently, according to the Wall Street Journal, this computer is pretty smart and can ingest every single manual and prior service request and learn how to answer a myriad of questions from people. 



On one hand, maybe you’ll get better technical knowledge and more consistent responses by talking to a computerized service representative.



But on the other hand, if the interactive voice response systems with the dead end menus of call options, endless maze of “If you want to reach X, press Y now” along with all the disconnects after being on for 10 minutes already are any indication of what this, I am leery to say the least. 



The Telegraph does says that Amelia can service customers in 20 languages and after 2 months, can resolve 64% of “the most common queries” independently, so this is hopeful and maybe even inspiring of what is to come. 



These days, based on how much time we spend online in the virtual world, I think most people would actually prefer to talk to a knowledgeable computer than a smart alec human who doesn’t want to be handling annoying customer calls all day, anyway. 



The key to whether Amelia and her computerized brothers and sisters of the future will be successful is not only how quickly they can find the correct answer to a problem, but also how well they can understand and address new issues that haven’t necessarily come up the same way before, and how they handle the emotions of the customer on the line who wishes they didn’t have the problem needing this call to begin with. 😉



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Vernon Chen)