I first began to learn Hebrew in 1994 before the internet was really popular. Even then Borders and Barnes and Noble stores were just starting, so it was hard to find good tutorials. Most courses simply jumped into Hebrew sentences, without taking the time to properly learn the alphabet first.
On an out-of-town business trip, I finally discovered a book of exercises that teach a person to easily read the Hebrew letters. The book taught one or two letters per chapter, and slowly introduced the vowels (or Nikud). Each lesson progressed by adding one or two Hebrew letters, and another vowel or two.
Using this methodology, I finally got to where I could read Hebrew words “on site”. Then I could make out words in the course book, the Sidur, or the Hebrew Bible and finally be able to pronounce them, even if I didn’t know what they meant. As a beginner though, I didn’t always know if my pronunciation was correct or not.
Even the books were lacking. What I needed was a person (or computer) sitting there with me, validating whether I was pronouncing the Hebrew words correctly or not. Oh vey – if only I would have had a personal tutor. But as a software programmer, I knew that I could get the computer to take the place of the tutor that I didn’t have.
My search began to find Hebrew fonts that were appropriate, and a good multimedia software program called “Toolbook”. That was the easy part; the hard part was developing the dozens of words, lessons, and system of combingin them. I almost wore out the pages of my printed Hebrew dictionary.
One of the challenges was deciding the order in which to teach the Hebrew letters and vowels. Another challenge was just the shear volume of words that had to be keyed in the computer. There was no easy Hebrew word processor, so the data entry was a big challenge. The final challenge, was recording over 2700 Hebrew word and sound files, so that program would be able to pronounce each and every word.
Finally, the art work came together, and the progam changed from three diskettes (you don’t see those much any more) to a CD/ROM. I learned Microsoft Frontpage and began selling the program online, back when the world wide web was just in its infancy. After 10 years, I have literrally sold 100s of the program.
When I first started “At Home with Hebrew” in 1994, the concept of selling on the internet was still new; some people even questioned if it was legal. I learned Microsoft FrontPage and created the first version of my website, and over the years the site had grown to sell many other Hebrew tutorials. Our recent products include “Hebrew Kindergarten” and “Songs of the Shabbat”.
In about the year 2012 (or before), I opened the doors to Hebrew Garden (HebrewGarden.com). It has most of the same features as “At Home with Hebrew”, but it now runs as a web-based membership site. Members can logon an do their lesson on any of the modern devices, including Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, or any operating system, whether it be Windows, Apples, or Linux/Unix or even if they run on a device like a Google Chromebook.