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Learning Hebrew For Fun and Profit

Updated on January 31, 2011

Hebrew Lessons are Challenging but Rewarding

Hebrew is an ancient language used more than a thousand years ago. The Jews of the time had their own separate language from those of the surrounding nations. Hebrew was used by people to in song, writing, oral tradition and speech. In time Hebrew became the dominant language of the Jews, supplanting Aramaic. Jewish texts were composed in Hebrew. Jews sang lullabies in Hebrew, argued in Hebrew, wrote love letters in the language. After the Roman Empire was overthrown, modern Jews began to incorporate other words from other languages into their own. The resulting languages took on a life of their own. Hebrew became a sacred language used only for prayer and special holiday occasions.

The Rewards of Learning Hebrew

Today Hebrew has been revived by modern day Jews with the intention of using it for both written and ordinary speech.

Learning Hebrew requires patience and determination. In order to learn Hebrew you must concentrate and work on the very basics of the language. Hebrew is not a language that falls easily on the American tongue. Hebrew differs from English in many significant ways. Such ways include the Hebrew alphabet as well the types of vowels and consonants used. Both spoken and written Hebrew sound and look strange to the modern American ear.

However, Hebrew is a rewarding language once you start to study it. Hebrew was the language used in the original bible. Scholars studied it when composing the New Testament. Hebrew study can serve as a gateway to other languages including Arabic.

An Ulpan

The best way to learn Hebrew is via intensive immersion. Israeli schools offer immersion classes called ulpan. An ulpan is a school where students do nothing all day but study Hebrew. Instructors are on hand to guide them and they learn the written and spoken language.

Learn Hebrew in Many Places

Hebrew lessons are commonly available in many other different places. Local synagogues offer lessons to both beginners and advanced students. Hebrew lessons take place many days of the week. Many temples offer lessons directly after Saturday services for children and their parents. Bible study groups work with students who want to study Hebrew to understand the world of Jesus.

If you aim to get at least a basic understanding of Hebrew, there are several factors you should take into account. One of the most important factors is time. Studying Hebrew takes time. If you want to learn to speak Hebrew, you will have to think about studying it for at least a year.

Students must master a basic alphabet that is not like English. The alphabet has both a written and print form. If you want to learn the Hebrew alphabet you’ll have to buy a specific series of lined notebooks that differ from standard English notebooks.

Students who study Hebrew from English have an advantage because Hebrew has a fairly representative alphabet. Sounds correspond to letters. However, Hebrew differs from English in that Hebrew is written from right to left rather than left to right. Written Hebrew also differs from written English because written Hebrew does not use vowels. Vowels are indicated by a series of dashes and dots. Students learn to use these dashes and dots in addition to their regular series of letters. More advanced Hebrew documents do not contain or use vowel. Instead readers learn to recognize words by patterns and familiar vocabulary.

The spoken language also differs greatly from English. Spoken Hebrew uses vowels that are unfamiliar to English speakers. Several standard sounds include the heavy use of the y sound and the use of the ch sound. The ch sound is used in many Hebrew words. Beginners should concentrate on making the sound low in their throats to give it proper emphasis.

Once you have mastered the basics of Hebrew you can look for ways to increase your knowledge. Hebrew songs are called tzimrot. Tzimrot are used on many popular Jewish holidays such as Purim and Passover. Children and adults use different tzimrot. Children’s songs are typically lighter with a softer melody. Adult tzimrot speak of more adult emotions such as love and longing.

You’ll also want to practice with other speakers. One of the best ways to do this is to learn Hebrew online. Online lessons and communities allow you the chance to communicate with other speakers who share your passion for the language. You can learn Hebrew online free or for a nominal price from many varied places. Look for instructors who speak Israeli Hebrew and understand English. English is widely spoken in Israel. Many Israelis are bilingual.

Mastering can be both fun and exciting. Hebrew lessons will help you understand English better and explore an entirely new world.

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    • zionmyhome profile image

      zionmyhome 6 years ago from Jersusalem

      You can check out thehebrewlanguage.com if you have any Hebrew teachers in your area. They have online lessons

    • saesha profile image

      saesha 7 years ago

      i didn't know that about synagogues, I'm going to put this on my to-do list.

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