Learn Iv'rit (Hebrew) with Your iPhone
By ISJL Education Fellow Carrie Bohn
Learning a new language is on many folks’ bucket lists. However, learning a completely new language with a new alphabet is also often deemed one of the most challenging tasks that anyone can attempt, the older that we get! Hebrew, unlike the West-Germanic language of English, is a Semitic language that follows a unique pattern with a word that includes a root, which is called a שׁוֹרֱשׁ (shoresh, root). Modest manipulations of Hebrew roots can create distinct, yet related, meanings from an English speaker’s perspective, and the language often comes across as daunting to master. With the complexities that come with a unique grammar and vocabulary set, there are some creative ways to try and teach this ancient language. Below is a compiled list of some interactive applications for your smartphone that are free to download and can help familiarize you with Hebrew.
Write It Hebrew
Write it Hebrew is an application that allows you to practice writing print Hebrew. The app is a great way to learn the motions of writing Hebrew letters, with a function to show you exactly which direction to form the symbols. Write it Hebrew is user-friendly, and even children can learn with the app. The interface is clear and understandable, and it would be great to use with an iPad or larger tablet. While the application does not offer a scriptwriting function, it might be beneficial to someone who has the goal of becoming helpful to use another method to try to learn the script alef-bet because, in contemporary practice, it is widely used.
The application Drops also has an easy to navigate interface where the user initially drags Hebrew words to a pictorial representation of what the item is. At times, this can be confusing because one might not be entirely sure what the picture is of. A bowl of fruit might be shown, but it might not be apparent if the user is learning the term for apples, bananas, or maybe fruit in general. The app offers daily practice reminders which can be helpful when trying to remain consistent; however, with the free version you are only allowed five minutes of practice each day. Drops is excellent for those who might only be interested in conversational Hebrew as the application does not include words with vowels, which are often used when learning the language. The review functions seem to be abundant, and this application might be useful for learning vocabulary as there were many categories (including numbers, pronouns, countries, home and garden, and many more). A few different games are also available with Drops. Be aware that with a $69.99 yearly price tag, the financial drawbacks might skew the recommendation to buy the paid version of this app.
Free Hebrew by NEMO
Not to be confused by the Disney/ Pixar animated fish, Free Hebrew by NEMO is another application that allows users to learn a certain number of words per day. The free version gives users the opportunity for a customized learning experience with the ability to learn a certain number of words per day. There are different functions that incorporate activities such as quick reviews, reading Hebrew, and working on language learning while immersed in other tasks (such as office work). The user can choose the speed at which you hear words while engaged in the lesson, and you can also change fonts which can be helpful for learners with specific visual needs. The stand out function of this application is the pronunciation tool. Free Hebrew by NEMO allows you to record yourself speaking new words and then compare your speech with a native speaker. The ability to examine your accent skills side by side can exponentially improve your fluency. The paid version of the app is $11.99; however, with the aforementioned features, it might be worth a try!
One of the most popular language-learning applications, Duolingo is a fun and colorful learning tool that aside from Hebrew has other languages to choose from. Unfortunately Duolingo does include advertisements on the interface, which prospectively can irritate users. The app sends you notifications with daily reminders to keep you on track with your language learning and allows you to create daily goals for yourself. The app will enable you to learn Hebrew by hearing, speaking, and writing vocabulary words, and easily explains what each activity is. Duolingo’s paid version is $79.99 per year, but the app is known to have coupon codes that pop up on occasion.
This list only examined a few language learning applications, and there are a plethora of others that might suit specific learners better. Regardless of what mechanism you are using to study, consistency is a tried and true way to best absorb Hebrew. Hopefully, this list will inspire a new group of Hebrew learners, and be the catalyst for those considering studying this ancient language.