Learning Hebrew—Making it official!


Only my closest, language-loving friends know this, but I’ve been dabbling quite a lot. Since my last project to learn Polish, it’s been sort of a bit of this and a bit of that…Kazakh was a bust (I admitted I was dabbling), and my serious Icelandic project lost steam because our plans for a family trip are ruined by coronavirus.

For the past month, I’ve been actively dabbling in Hebrew. I actually started a while ago, trying out the language on Duolingo, but I gave up because the sentences often had no audio. (Since Hebrew doesn’t write vowels, audio is very important.) Since I finally forked out for Glossika a month or two ago for Icelandic, I thought, why not give Hebrew a try again?

Around a month later, I took my first Hebrew lesson online.

And here I am, making it official. I’m properly studying Hebrew!

I’ll still be working on my other languages — I’m still very much in love with Polish, and I’m having fun learning Taiwanese Hokkien with my friends. But hey, it’s my focus.

But why?

  1. My name is Israel. That part is self-explanatory.
  2. Learning a new script is fun! This one is even written right to left, and has a cursive script that looks like alien markings!
  3. I like the sound of it. I’ve always been drawn to languages with these throaty sounds, from French to German to Kazakh. A language that combines so many of these sounds in mind-boggling ways (such as מוכרח mukhrakh ‘must’) would be so interesting to pronounce. Basically the opposite of Icelandic, in my mind.
  4. When I studied in Sweden, there was a ‘languages of the world’ course where I did a presentation on the features of Hebrew. So much of it has been influenced by European languages — giving me a sense of familiarity — but the rest is just so different and fascinating. I’m dying to know how it would be like to train my brain with conjugations that seemingly change the entire word, instead of just the ending.
  5. Hebrew is, after all, the only language that’s been revived from zero native speakers to a very lively language with millions of daily speakers. How cool is that? This legend alone, for language lovers, makes it worth a look.

How am I studying?

For the most part, I’m using Glossika. Having had a bit of experience with how languages work (especially after that presentation on Hebrew), I like to dive head-first into words in context. I’m aiming for around 30–40 sentences a day, which, combined with reviews, it’s a heavy regiment!

I’ve also just picked up Anki again. I went through several Hebrew vocabulary cards a long time ago, but now that I have more experience with how the language works in general, I find it easier to absorb new words.

Whenever I have questions about grammar, I go straight to Pealim. It’s an absolutely fantastic dictionary for conjugations and declensions. Nuff’ said. The app is expensive (£10), so I’ve just been using the site so far. But what can I say, it’s good.

Morfix is the most widely used bilingual dictionary for translating between English and Hebrew. Sadly, it’s not easy for beginners to read, because it simply lists out all the Hebrew equivalents of English words, without English explanations.

At the same time, I’m also casually going through an Assimil French-Hebrew textbook, hoping to cover grounds that Glossika might not cover. (Glossika has a problem with its vocabulary, because it uses a limited range of words to help you focus on practising sentence structures.)

Right now, I’m looking at trying out more online teachers on italki and AmazingTalker. I’ve picked out some favourites, but honestly, it’ll take plenty of trials to settle on one!

Last but not least, just for fun…I’m learning to write with my left hand! I’m told that I was (supposedly) born ambidextrous, but brought up to be right-handed. While I do most things with my right hand now, I still feel more comfortable conducting music with my left.

Since Hebrew is written from right to left, writing with my left hand would mean less ink stains on my skin (well, assuming I write things longhand at all). So, why not?

I’m too old (ahem) for sprint challenges now. Since I don’t have any travel plans in the near future (I doubt anybody does in 2020), I’m taking it slow and enjoying the process! Having a bit more time on my hands now, I’ll keep updating the blog with my progress and the insights and resources that I discover. Do tell me if you’ve thought about learning Middle Eastern languages, and why!

Disclaimer: some links in this post are affiliate links, so you can support my learning if you try out my recommendations!