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The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh: Volume 1 - Mastering the Basics
The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh
Volume 1 - Mastering the Basics
By Nachman Marcuson
Distributed by Feldheim Publishers, 2014
Reviewed by Anna Dogole - May 25, 2015
The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh (i.e., the Guide to the Holy Language or Tongue) is a two-part series that provides students with the opportunity to learn Biblical Hebrew on their own. The first volume in this series is aptly titled Mastering the Basics, while the second volume is entitled Mastering Hebrew Verbs: The Seven Binyanim. In this review, I'll just be looking at the first book in the series, with the second book covered in a separate review . . .
The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh: Mastering the Basics was written by Rav Nachman Marcuson, a Torah scholar and educator. From the onset, this book was written as a self-study manual for students who already know how to read Hebrew, but who have yet to study, or master, the intricacies of Hebrew grammar. Don't let the word grammar scare you away from this book. Marcuson's writing is clear and his explanations are simplistic without talking down to the student. Most important, the lessons are intuitive. Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson, but not before you have been given the opportunity to learn and practice the information you have been taught. In all, this book provides students with an excellent grounding in the fundamentals of Hebrew grammar!
There are sixteen lessons in this book and they all follow the same basic format. This format includes a list of vocabulary words you need to learn, a list of rules (along with clear explanations of what the rule is and how to use it properly), a summary of the rules learned in a given lesson, and then a series of exercises that will allow you to internalize the information you have learned and to test your understanding of the rules you have studied. In all, this book includes 32 different rules covering a range of topics from how to make a word into a question to the use of 'and' and 'the' in Hebrew. A summary of all the rules learned in the book can be found at the end of lesson 16. As well, a concise dictionary (no definitions, just the word in English and Hebrew) that contains all the main words found in the text is also included, along with a notation of the page upon which each word was first introduced.
Best of all, at the end of the book, Marcuson has included a detailed answer key that not only provides the answers to the exercises, but also provides explanations as to why a given answer was right or wrong, or other information that will make your understanding of the correct answer more clear. In addition, all the exercises have been reprinted at the end of the book, just before their corresponding answers, so you don't have to flip back and forth in the book. In previous editions of this book, the answer key was published separately, so if you get an older edition, be sure that it also includes the answer booklet.
Combined, the information and exercises contained in this volume will help students make excellent strides toward the mastery of Biblical Hebrew, and it will help them to read the Chumash and other texts in the Loshon Hakodesh, without having to rely (or at least so much) on an English translation to understand what you are reading. Although this text was written for those studying Biblical Hebrew, it will also prove invaluable to those studying Modern Hebrew as well as to those who already know the basics of Hebrew grammar but who need a quick refresher course. The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh also serve as a handy reference guide for those studying Hebrew with a teacher or who are using just about any other textbook. I highly recommend this volume, and its companion, Mastering Hebrew Verbs: The Seven Binyanim, to anyone trying to learn Biblical Hebrew on their own!
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