Learn to read Hebrew fast

It is so interesting teaching beginners to read Hebrew. All they want to do is learn to read Hebrew fast! 99% of my pupils come from an English-speaking background. They try to read Hebrew like they read English! Inevitably, they make mistakes. To prove my point about why they need to slow down, I have to ask them a few questions.

I have to ask them how long they have been reading English. The answer is usually between five and seventy years (depending on how old they are when they come to my class). I then ask them how long they have been reading Hebrew for. The answer is five hours. I then ask them if they think they should be reading Hebrew at the same speed they are reading English; they always say “no”.

Learn to read Hebrew fast

I ask them to think about why they are learning to read Hebrew in the first place. What their primary motivation is. I explained to them that it did not matter what their reasons were, but it was the approach to the task that made all the difference. As with any new skill, it needs to be taken slowly and methodically.

My Hebrew pupils are in a bind. They hear Hebrew read fast when they go to places like synagogues or anywhere in Israel, they hear Hebrew being read fast. So, they want to learn to read Hebrew fast. They think they can read Hebrew at the same speed and will be easier for them. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I explain to them that the people they are listening to people who have been reading Hebrew for at least 10 years.

Fast track your Hebrew reading

I think we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Some people do not want to spend hours and hours each day learning to read Hebrew. For some people it is not their ‘thing’, but they have to learn this skill for a number of different reasons. Some people only have as little as six weeks to learn to read this ancient language.

If I know this from the outset, I point the students in the direction of an online resourcewww.easylearnhebrew.com. This program has seven lessons. The learner can complete the course if he puts his mind to it. The beauty of this program is that it can be accessed on multiple devices, such desktop computers, laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Why is learning to read important to you?

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many different reasons why people want to learn Hebrew letters and ultimately learn to read Hebrew. In Judaism, a Jewish boy becomes an adult at age thirteen, and it is customary for him to read from the Torah and lead the congregation in the service. As such, it is imperative that he learns to read Hebrew fluently to be able to chant it, too.

In some parts of the Jewish community, Jewish girls also have a Bat Mitzvah similar to that of the boys. Hence, girls also need to learn to read Hebrew fluently. Some children do not have the chance to go to a Jewish day school. Hence they do not have exposure to Hebrew until approximately aged eleven. But they need support to help them achieve this goal!

Let’s be honest here, which child would choose to learn to read a new language instead of playing with their friends? This is where the parents come in to help. Having parental support for this child’s journey is vital. It the parents who understand the significance of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony. They understand the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.  

Other reasons to learn to read Hebrew

Learning to read Hebrew is not just for the ten- to twelve-year-olds. There are many people, who undertake this journey when they are adults. Take, for example, adults who had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, are now retired and want to learn to read Hebrew again to learn modern Hebrew. They realise, before they can read one Hebrew word, they must master the Hebrew alphabet basics again.

Some people who want to learn Hebrew reading, also want to learn Hebrew writing and learn the two skills simultaneously. This can be helpful if the student is in Israel and must also learn to write in Hebrew. In fact, many people want to learn to read Hebrew because they want to visit or live in Israel. It is rewarding to be able to read the street signs, menus and other simple text in Israel.

Even if a person sticks with the basic Hebrew texts, they can start to read the local newspaper in Hebrew. Yediot Akharanot is a newspaper written for people who are not fluent in Hebrew and can only read basic Hebrew. It covers a wide range of topics, from current events to lifestyle and entertainment, and it uses simple language and straightforward sentence structures. It is very rewarding to pick out words in a newspaper, and it’s a great way to practice and improve Hebrew reading skills!

Learn to read Hebrew fast – make it work for you!

So, although everyone wants to learn to read Hebrew as quickly as possible, I ask them to slow down their reading. As a guide, I teach them how to recognise syllable breakups. I teach them the six different types of syllables that I have identified in Hebrew words. Being able to identify these syllables enables the student to draw in syllable lines.

Using the syllable breakups forces the reader to slow down, read slowly, and, most importantly, read fluently. While the students come to me wanting to learn to read Hebrew fast, they soon realise that this is not a good option for a beginner. They realise it is not something that can be rushed.


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