Starting to Learn Hebrew
Any student of Hebrew must begin his or her adventure by learning the letters and vowels. This includes being able to sound out, or pronounce written words. Most students begin with the “printed” or “book” style Hebrew, and learn cursive later. While most of Europe and the Americas uses the Latin alphabet, Hebrew is entirely different, consisting of 22 letters and vowels that are written as special symbols above and below the letters.
The beginner student must examine his goals. While some students want to learn to read the Hebrew Bible, other students are preparing for a trip to Israel, and need to learn modern Hebrew. Other students might want to learn how to read the sidur (Hebrew prayerbook).
It makes since to learn the most popular words first, doesn’t it? If learning Biblical Hebrew, why not start with the most popular 400 words. We have put those words on audio-CDs, for learning at home or in your car, and we have also included the same words in our software program.
Let’s compare Modern and Biblical Hebrew. The verb systems are very similar, but Hebrew tends use the perfect and imperfect (past and future) where as Modern Hebrew uses those and a lot of the present tense. Nouns are similar, but Biblical Hebrew might talk about chariots, kings, and prophets, modern Hebrew might talk about plains, trains, and automobiles.
Some students might get some words “mixed-up”, because there are several letters in Hebrew that are silent. For example, the word “ET” could be AYIN-TAV (meaning “time”), ALEPH-TAV (pronounced: “AT” meaing “you feminine singular” or “ET the pointer to the direct object , or even ALEPH-TET (pronounced “ET” meaning “pen’). A good tutorial will point out these similarities and differences.
Hebrew numbers come in two forms, masculine and feminine. So you basically have to learn to count to 10 two different ways. Learning to tell time and doing simple math problems are great ways to enforce the learning of numbers.
Children enjoy learning Hebrew through playing games. One of our games is memory-match, where the student turns over two “cards” at a time. If the numbers match, the cards disappear. Even adults love these types of games.
Most students of modern Hebrew must also learn the cursive letters. This is almost like learning a second Hebrew alphabet, because they are quite different from their printed counterparts. The time-tested method of writing the letters over-and-over on lined paper works today as well as it did years ago.