Learning to read Hebrew
I never in a million years thought that I would be teaching people who are keen on learning to read Hebrew as long as I have been doing it. But learning to read Hebrew is still a 'thing'! There are so many reasons why people come to me for lessons. I will always remember one pupil I had. He was Vietnamese and had grown up as a Buddhist.
He met a Christian person who tried to convert him to Christianity. However, it was because of this encounter he decided to explore Judaism. As part of his journey of exploration, he needed to start learning to read Hebrew. That is where I featured! The man, whose name was David, could speak basic English but could barely read English.
However, to my credit, I taught him to read Hebrew fluently to help him fulfil his dream of learning to read Hebrew. It shows that it can be done if a person wants to learn to read this ancient text. It was an exciting challenge because the way I teach beginners to read Hebrew is specific to native English speakers. However, together, we managed it!
Learning to read the Hebrew vowels
Learning to read the Hebrew vowels and the Hebrew aleph-bet (alphabet letters) characters are entirely different from that of any other alphabet of other languages. Therefore, for the purpose of this article, I am 'lumping' Hebrew vowels and Hebrew letters under one category. However, note that the vowels are not used when reading the Hebrew Bible or in modern Hebrew texts; except for a few newspapers designed to help people who are still learning to read and understand Hebrew.
Ancient Hebrew language
The ancient Hebrew language is the language used in the bible and other ancient texts. Indeed, when starting out, a pupil certainly needs guidance when learning to read the biblical Hebrew alphabet. Therefore, finding the right 'tool' to help you on your Hebrew reading journey is essential.
'Tools' to help you come in different forms. One tool might be a private teacher (like I was); another might be joining a class with like-minded people. A third option to help you on your journey to learn to read this ancient dialect is an online tool, such as Easy Learn Hebrew.
I always liken learning a skill that appears to be overwhelming to eating an elephant. As the old saying goes, 'How do you eat an elephant?' One bite at a time!
Everything else can fall into place if your 'why' is essential. Motivation is the key to starting to learn a new skill. Keep your big picture at the forefront of your journey.
The ‘why’ is what I remind my pupils of; their reason for taking time out away from their friends, their hobbies, and their schoolwork to spend time learning to read the Hebrew language, learning the material for their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah and practising the Hebrew prayers and Torah portion in their spare time.
It can be challenging for a young person to dedicate the time to practise the Hebrew bible. In today's world, with so many competing priorities for teenagers, Hebrew practice can take a backseat. Whether adults can relate to it or not, social media is an essential part of a teenager's life; it is both a blessing and a curse. However, I am still trying to work out what the blessing is. LOL! Nevertheless, regardless of what I think, it is part of their life, and anything that takes them away from communicating on social media can annoy them. The tutor's job is to keep them on track and remind them of the 'big picture'. If it is relevant, I will draw on their family's past to connect them with their heritage and history.
Only some people who want to learn Hebrew are interested in learning biblical Hebrew. Instead, many people are keen to learn modern Hebrew, the language spoken today in Israel. Indeed, modern Hebrew is an entirely different challenge. Yes, the letters are the same as biblical Hebrew. However, there are some differences in the pronunciation of some words. Furthermore, the vocabulary is sometimes different.
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