My first steps in Hebrew

Although (theoretically) I have been learning Hebrew for almost a month, laziness has made me allocate only one hour per day for this language. So, within a month, I was only able to learn the script alphabet and a few words. Now I’m trying to learn the cursive alphabet, which I find to be very strange.

Why did I start learning Hebrew? In the last three years, I have had the opportunity to go every year to Israel: once in Tel Aviv and twice in Eilat. And, although sometimes I was awakened by military exercises with F-16s and F-35s, it’s a wonderful country. I also like Fauda (you should check it out, it’s on Netflix), so I’ve been interested in learning this language ever since I saw season 1.

My first thought was to get a monthly subscription to HebrewPod101. I didn’t really like GermanPod101, but I thought that was because I was at a higher level than their curriculum. And, after seeing the positive reviews on the Internet, I thought the Pod101 series was good for absolute beginners. Indeed, I learned some important things from those podcasts, but not enough as I expected. I only paid the subscription for one month. That’s how I learned the alphabet (or the Alef-Bet).

In the second week I didn’t learn Hebrew at all. However, I read about the differences between Yiddish and Hebrew. Not all Jews speak Hebrew. Some speak a German language called Yiddish, while others speak a Romance language called Judeo-Spanish. In Israel, other Semitic languages are spoken, other than Hebrew, such as Aramaic and Levantine Arabic. Hebrew is spoken by 11 million people, while Yiddish is spoken by only 3 million.

Yiddish, although a Germanic language, is a combination of Hebrew, Slavic languages, Romance languages and Aramaic. The phonology of Yiddish also has Russian, Ukrainian and Polish influences. Origin of Yiddish can be traced back to the 10th century, when the Ashkenazi spread to Germany (Rhineland), Eastern Europe and Central Europe. Because of this, Yiddish is especially spoken by the Jewish diaspora. Yiddish is written using Hebrew script. Silent Hebrew letters become vowels in Yiddish. Letters which can be used as consonants and vowels are read according to context and sometimes are also differentiated through diacritic marks derived from Hebrew.

In the third week, I started the first level of Pimsleur. I only did the first 9 lessons, so I didn’t learn a lot. However, I listened to each lesson 2-3 times, because one listen didn’t seem to be enough for me to understand all the words and structures taught. I learned essential structures such as Hello, Sorry, I (don’t) know and so on.

In the fourth week, I made a subscription (8$ per month) to Mango Languages (for Modern Hebrew, as they also have Biblical Hebrew). Mango Languages is not a well-known resource, although it has over 100 languages available, including rare languages such as Chaldean Aramaic, Cherokee and Ancient Greek. A lesson is like a Powerpoint slide, it contains between 40 and 100 slides with new or revised words, then with long and complicated sentences. A good resource. If you live in the US and have access to a national library, you can subscribe to Mango Languages for free.

The plan for the following months contains two parts:

  • Audio: To finish all three levels of Pimsleur, then to complete Living Language (Essential, Intermediate, Advanced) and the FSI course.
  • E-learning: After the 10 units of Mango Languages, I want to do the whole curriculum of Transparent Language, uTalk, Rosseta Stone and Mondly.

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