Online Hebrew classes
Hebrew was essentially dead for two thousand years as a spoken language and was used only in liturgical and biblical texts. It was only in the late 19th Century that the process of the Hebrew language revival began. It was on 13 October 1881 that Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his friends agreed to speak Hebrew exclusively in their conversations. As a result, the language, which had not been spoken as a mother tongue since the Second Century CE, once again became the national language of Israel. It is a given that online Hebrew classes were not available then. Instead, learning took place in an old-fashioned way, in face-to-face classrooms!
Teaching Hebrew classes online
Teaching Hebrew classes online only became a ‘thing’ in the Twenty-First Century. I started Hebrew lessons via Skype for students who were living too far to come to my house. Interestingly enough, at the time, I was the only teacher (that I knew of) to offer online classes to learn Hebrew.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, we were all forced to stay at home, online learning, including online Hebrew classes, and the only way people could have their lessons. Online learning was a new challenge for all the other Hebrew teachers (in my vicinity), but I had been conducting these online classes for over five years before the pandemic!
There are certainly pros and cons to learning online. A pro is that neither the teacher nor the student(s) must leave their home to attend a class. It is incredibly convenient; it saves time and petrol (a plus for the environment). However, a con is that there is no face-to-face interaction, and it can have many other challenges.
Hebrew words letters and vowels are different to English and can be challenging if the teacher needs to show the student something on paper. Still, the challenges can be overcome as long as the teacher and pupil work together. For example, when I am teaching online, I have a number of different strategies that I use to help communicate with my pupil.
One of them is I ask them to number each line of the Hebrew text, so I can say to them, “Please find line 13 and find the second word from the right”. It works every time. Another strategy I have developed is to write down (whatever it is that I need to communicate pictorially) in thick black pen on paper and hold it up for them to see.
The students I teach only need to learn biblical Hebrew as they are either studying for their rite of passage, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, or they are converting to Judaism. So, I spend a lot of my time teaching the ancient Hebrew alphabet. However, if the student prefers, they start with learning the bible language via Easy Learn Hebrew.
Sometimes they find it more accessible, as they can learn to read at their own pace; then, once they have mastered this skill, we can move on to more complex reading and discussions. We discuss all kinds of things, such as the ceremony, the traditions, why certain things are done, and how it is relevant to that person’s life.
I spend a lot of my time teaching the Hebrew bible, but there was a time when I was interested in pursuing modern Hebrew. So first, I studied both modern and biblical Hebrew at university; then, I travelled to Israel to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Finally, at the end of my academic year, I was able to understand high-level Hebrew. I was able to listen to the news on the radio, watched Israeli TV and read newspapers! What was so exciting for me was that I was able to understand 90% of it. I was also able to have in-depth conversations with Israelis about the political situation, as well as chat about day-to-day life. By the end of my time there, I felt I was 90% integrated into Israeli society. I was proud of myself.
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