A Day For Hebrew
After I did my last language challenge – Spanish in 24 hrs – a month ago, I decided to try a language I had never studied before, still as a part of the 24 Hour Language Challenge. I chose Hebrew, because it didn’t belong to any family of the languages I was already speaking, so I wouldn’t have many possibilities of association and would be able to really start from scratch.
I spent only one day, but not 24 hours. In fact I dedicated “only” 8-9 hours to Hebrew learning.
To make it clear I didn’t spend much on learning the writing system, only reviewed the alphabet in order to be able to recognize some letters.
I focused on being able to speak the basics of the language and learn some cultural context.
For example it was interesting to know that the first word Hebrew babies learn to say is dad אבא (a-ba), rather than mom אימא (i-ma).
Then “yes” is “ken” and “no” is “lo“, whilst “and” is “ve“, so “yes and no” can be remembered in a super-easy way if you are familiar with the brand “Kenvelo“, a chain of clothing stores found over Europe.
Then you have some words that are rather international and pronounced similarly to English:
supermarket su-per-mar-ket סופרמרקט
student stu-dent סטודנט
salad sa-lat סלט
sugar su-kar סוכר
mango man-go מנגו
university u-ni-ver-si-ta אוניברסיטה
Special characteristic of the language:
The very distinctive feature of the language (you notice in the beginning) is that there are different words for 2. and 3. person of singular and plural, depending on whether you are referring to male or female. E.g.:
you (male) = atah (אתה), you (female) = at (את)
they (m.) = heim הם , they (f.) = hein (הן)
Then “ha” is the definite article used in front of nouns and their adjectives. It’s used quite often. For example the word for “day” is “yom” and for “today” is “hayom” (lit. “the day”). You may have heard about Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, so you already know what means the first part of the name. Recognizing meanings in the names of Jewish celebrations helps tremendously in remembering them. For example, rosh = head, shanah = year, so Rosh Hashanah, as you may guess, is the Jewish New Year (lit. “head of the year“).
It is playful to be discovering the inner logic of the language on your own when you are progressing as a beginner. For instance:
ma = what (“thing”); mi = who (“person”)
something ma-she-hu משהו ; someone mi-she-hu מישהו
week = sha-vu-a שבוע , end = sof סוף , -> weekend = sof sha-vu-a סוף שבוע
If dad is a-ba, then grandfather is made only by adding “s” in the front: sa-ba (סבא). Easy, isn’t it?
Moreover, you can make own logical associations between similar sounding words, so it’s easier for you to remember them as a pair. E.g. intelligent = na-von (נבון) and correct = na-khon (נכון). If you are intelligent, very often you will be also correct. :)
Imagination doesn’t know limits and so when something sounds to you like some other word in another language and you are able to make a logical association, just do it! :) For example, when you hear that “ugly” is “me-kho-ar” (מכוער), which sound like Spanish “mejor” for “worse“, you can think of ugly in Hebrew that it’s “something worse than normal”.
You can be even more creative by visualizing possible actions attributed to certain words. E.g. when you hear that “napkin“is “map-it” (מפית), you can imagine someone passing you a napkin and asking you to draw a treasure ‘map’ saying “map it!” :)
What worked for me and what I would advise to those who want to kick-start learning Hebrew?
Apart from Youtube offering videos with basic introduction to the language, you can access many free resources.
Just to list a few:
http://www.teachmehebrew.com – you find here a very useful overview of Hebrew language. Lists of most basic words, phrases, etc. You can simply jot down the most useful words for you and build your own beginer’s vocabulary.
http://www.hebrewpod101.com – I paid 1$ and got a 1-month premium membership, having access to numerous well structured audio lessons with comprehensive lesson materials. Even without a payment, you can get a free lifetime account and still have access to a lot of free content. A very useful feature is Word of the Day, which is a handy way to keep up your regular learning.
http://www.transparent.com – you can subscribe and receive Word of the Day for free to your e-mail box.
If after reading my intro you find Hebrew an interesting language and you feel itchy to learn more about, go ahead, and please share your experience. ;)