Hi everyone. As I mentioned in the latter part of last year, I enrolled for the intensive winter ulpan at Haifa U. It was held over 4 weeks in Jan-Feb.
Overall positive impression: excellent grammar course. Overall negative impression: not enough emphasis on spoken Hebrew.
Now, first off, even though I was afraid I'd only be good enough for a course lower than the level I ought to be at, as it turned out, it was totally the other way around for logistics reasons. They organise the courses into various levels based on an entry exam. Unfortunately there were quite a few people (8 I think) who had not even a clue of the alphabet, so that took up resources somewhat unnecessarily (IMO). We ended up with 4 levels. With one already down, that meant that everyone else had to be spread over three levels, and three teachers. Then the 'false beginners' took up another class, so that left everyone else in the other two classes. Some people who had already been in Israel for at least a few months and even a few years, who spoke really quite well and had a reasonable vocabulary (often after a 5-month ulpan) but had deficiencies in grammar, we're obvious candidates for the top level. However, there were so many people in the middle/intermediate level (or levels, because the range was quite broad), that some people had to be lumped in with those in the top class, including me despite my protests.
That meant that our class had a spread from dalet (probably my real level) to hey/vav. Not good for the strugglers, and not good for those who were pretty fluent. I found that throughout the four weeks I was understanding the teacher better, but not 100%. Inevitably I made progress, but perhaps would have done better in a lower group.
Another point is that the ulpan is mostly geared towards those staying for the semester, so a couple of days in the beginning are taken up with fairly unnecessary admin. The admin staff persisted in talking English with all levels, as did the madrikhim, even when spoken to in Hebrew, which I complained about in the review. Overall the spoken aspect was sorely lacking, with only 3 x 45 min. classes in the 4 weeks. They were good when we had them, but I would have liked one class every day - after all if you're preparing students to spend a semester in Israel, they're going to need to talk.
The teacher for my class was really excellent and thorough. We covered some really good grammar and I learnt a lot, but then grammar has always been my strong suit. I struggled to keep up with the vocabulary and cannot honestly say I made huge progress in vocabulary. We also did some syntax work, which was really useful. We used a variety of materials, rather than a specific book.
The course materials were excellent, and I bought quite a few books in the same range from the university bookshop. Mostly dalet, which I see more and more is really my level when it comes to vocabulary.
However, my confidence has improved and over the month I travelled around a lot and made an effort to speak Hebrew, even sorting out some problems on the fly totally in Hebrew. So that was progress. Being out of Tel Aviv certainly helps too, as people are less likely to answer in English if you're outside in smaller towns.
PM me if you'd like more information.