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Hebrew for Dummies

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Hebrew For Dummies

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Hebrew For Dummies
By Jill Suzanne Jacobs
Wiley Publishing, New York: 2003
ISBN: 0-7645-5489-1

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - February 11, 2004

Learning a new language can be a long and difficult process - but it doesn't have to be! Hebrew for Dummies, by Jill Suzanne Jacobs will have you up and speaking Hebrew in a matter of days, rather than years. This is not to say that after working with Hebrew for Dummies that you will be fluent in Hebrew. Rather the purpose of this book is to serve as an introduction to the Modern Hebrew. It is perfect for tourist wanting to learn a few key phrases before traveling to Israel and as a starting point for those wishing to become proficient Hebrew speakers. This book teaches the Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew that is commonly used in Israel today. In short, this book will help teach you to speak like a Sabra! (A Sabra is someone who was born in Israel.)

Hebrew for Dummies is a very user friendly book. Jacobs assumes that you don't know anything about Hebrew, and therefore starts at the beginning, including an introduction to the Hebrew alphabet, how the various letters are pronounced, and the basics of Hebrew grammar. She does not, however, teach you how to read Hebrew. The focus of this book is purely on learning to speak Hebrew. Throughout the text you will find an assortment of icons that mark especially important sections, or which point out specific information related to the text. For example, a 'grammatically speaking' icon is used to point out import information about Hebrew grammar.

The text is divided into five thematic sections: Throughout, this text is chock full of sample conversations and highlighted sections called Words to Know that highlight the most important words that you should know - like ice cream! Best of all, throughout you will find Fun & Games segments that let you have fun while honing your Hebrew skills. This text is also accompanied by an audio CD that contains almost an hour's worth of dialog from some of the conversations contained in the book, which are read aloud by native speakers.

The Hebrew vocabulary presented in this book is rendered in transliterated Hebrew, i.e., with English letters representing the sounds of the Hebrew letters, rather than being printed in actual Hebrew. (This reliance on transliterated Hebrew, rather than using actual Hebrew letters is the only real drawback of this book). Each entry also includes a pronunciation guide, and an English translation of the term or sentence. For example:

Hebrew Transliteration
Mah At Rotzah La'Asot Ha'Erev?

How to Pronounce the sentence.
mah aht roh-tzah lah-ah-soht hah-eh-rehv?

Translation of the sentence.
What do you want to do this evening?

Hebrew for Dummies is an excellent first step in learning how to speak Hebrew, and Jacobs provides readers with a solid foundation from which to continue their study of Hebrew. The text is easy to use, informative, and enjoyable to work with. The vocabulary that you will learn in this text is varied and detailed enough to allow you to communicate with native Hebrew speakers. The audio CD will also prove invaluable, both in letting you hear how the text would sound if spoken by a native Israeli, and as a measure against which you can judge the 'correctness' of your speech.

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