The Jewish Eye
Hebrew: A Language Course - Primer
Hebrew: A Language Course Primer
By Lois Rothblum, Bella Bergman, and Ora Band
Behrman House, (1987)
Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 26, 2002
Hebrew is a beautiful and ancient, yet vibrantly modern, language. Hebrew is also a language that is, relatively speaking, very easy to learn. Hebrew is a phonetic language. Consequently, once you learn the alphabet and vowels, and the fundamentals of grammar, you can find your way around quite easily. You'll be surprised just how fast you become proficient in Hebrew. Despite this, many would-be students shy away from Hebrew because they mistakenly believe that because Hebrew is written in a non-Latin alphabet that it is very hard to learn.
This fallacy is easy erased with a quick perusal of Ivrit Alfon, the Hebrew: A Language Course Primer, by Lois Rothblum, Bella Bergman, and Ora Band. This short textbook assumes that you have no knowledge of Hebrew. It offers the student a firm grounding in the Hebrew alphabet, the vowels, and, according to the book's authors, it will teach you to "...read and write Hebrew in six weeks or less." By the time you work through this book, you will be able to read and write phonetic Hebrew in both print and in Hebrew script. You will have also gained a working Hebrew vocabulary of about 140 words.
This book is intended for high school, college and adult students, and it is designed for use in a classroom. Nonetheless, it is well suited for use by a motivated, independent student. If you decided to tackle this book alone, I would highly recommend that you obtain an audio tape or computer program that you can listen to that will help ensure that you are pronouncing the sounds of the letters and vowels correctly. This book is designed as an introductory primer to the study of Hebrew. However, it is also well suited for use by anyone needing a brief refresher course on the basics of Hebrew before commencing on a more detailed study of the language.
This is a fun book to study. The book starts with a brief history of the Hebrew Language, and then moves onto an overview of the alphabet and associated vowels. Then it is on to Unit 1. The letters of the alphabet are introduced out of sequence in order to enable you to begin reading words in the very first lesson! Each unit in this book introduces the student to a few letters and vowels, and the sounds of each, as well as how each is written in script. Each unit includes a dialogue, vocabulary list, practice exercises, and a variety of reading selections. The various readings in this text range from short biblical passages to song lyrics. As well, various passages are written in script so that the student has a chance to practice reading and writing Hebrew script. Throughout, this book is illustrated with whimsical cartoons that really have nothing to do with the text, but which are fun to ponder!
Once you have mastered this book, you will be ready to take further Hebrew courses. A natural progression would be to continue on with the Hebrew: A Language Course (Shelabim) series. The main body of this series consists of three volumes, all of which can be purchased from the Behrman House website. Ivrit: Shalav Aleph, the first book in this series, presupposes that you know the alphabet, and it assumes a basic vocabulary. Both of these prerequisites are amply met through the study of Ivrit Alfon. You can also use this primer to jump-start your study of Hebrew in high school, college, or other academic setting.
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- Hebrew: A Language Course, Edited by Ora Band
A three-part course for adults that teaches the basics of Hebrew grammar and syntax, and provides the students with a vocabulary of about 1,000 words.
- Reader: Modern Hebrew Prose and Poetry, Edited by Ora Band
This anthology of Hebrew stories and poetry introduces second year Hebrew language students to the best of modern Hebrew literature.
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