The Jewish Eye
Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way
Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way
By Joseph Anderson, Linda Motzkin, Jonathan Rubenstein, and Laurence Wiseman
EKS Publishing Co., Oakland, California (2008)
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - November 2, 2011
Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way is a Hebrew language textbook designed for adult learners at the beginning level. Primarily designed for use by independent students, it can nonetheless also be used effectively in a classroom setting. In addition, this text is also well suited for use by motivated high school students. The text assumes that you are already familiar with the Hebrew alphabet and can read Hebrew, even if you cannot understand what you are reading. If you cannot read Hebrew yet, you'll find some handy resources at the end of this review that will have you ready for Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way in a very short time.
This textbook is designed to teach you to read and understand the text found in the Hebrew prayerbook (Siddur). A companion audio program is also available that will help you to practice both your listening comprehension and speaking skills. The text includes twenty-one chapters that focus primarily on basic Hebrew grammar. As your grammar skills grow, you will find that your Hebrew vocabulary will expand exponentially.
This is a self-paced text that provides ample practice exercises to ensure that you have a firm grasp of the material before proceeding to the next lesson. Most important, for adult learners, answers to all the exercises are included in at the end of the book! Each chapter includes a short vocabulary list of ten words or less (not counting variations) along with a short grammar lesson. Each chapter also includes a variety of exercises including an oral review exercise, written exercises, translation exercises, and practice reading of a partial or full Hebrew prayer. Many chapters also included a guide to reading of key prayers in the Jewish liturgy such as the Friday Night Kaddish, the Shema and the Veahavta, the Aleinu, the lighting of the Chanukkah candles, and more. By the end of this text you will have learned 183 of the most common words found in the Jewish prayerbook. You will also be able to read all the prayers with ease and you will have learned enough basic grammar to decipher many of the words that you might not yet know on sight. Topics covered included singular and plural forms of nouns, basic sentence structure, masculine and feminine endings, basic verb forms, past and future tenses, possessive endings, pronouns, participles, preposition, commands, and much more. In addition, this text includes two glossaries, one lists the supplemental vocabulary found in the text, and the other a glossary of the vocabulary words taught in the text. An index of grammatical terms is also included.
I have reviewed, and studied, a great many Hebrew textbooks, and this is one of the best ones I've seen for beginning adult learners. Not only does Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way come with a complete answer key at the end of the text, but a nice variety of supplemental learning aids are also available to help the beginning student, these include:
The text, combined with these study aids provides self-learners with an easy to understand, introductory course on Prayerbook Hebrew. The text follows a step-by-step format, and as long as you work through all the exercises, you should have no trouble learning and retaining the information taught in this textbook. Because this is a grammar-based course, it also provides a solid foundation for students interested in studying either Biblical and Modern Hebrew in more depth. Highly recommended!!
- Prayerbook Hebrew Flashcards
A set of flashcards keyed to the textbook is available from the publisher. The flashcards have a single Hebrew word on one side of the card and when you turn it over you'll find the word again, with an English translation and relevant notations telling you if the word is masculine or feminine, singular or plural, and the like. Many of the cards, on the reverse, also show the various forms that a word can take. This flashcard set includes both the regular and supplementary vocabulary used in the text. In all, this set includes 332 cards.
- Audio Companion CD Set
A nine-disc audio CD set is available to accompany the Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way textbook. Sephardic pronunciation (the same as is used in Israel) is used throughout this audio set. This set includes readings of all the vocabulary lists, oral reviews, practice exercises, and selected prayers. The prayers are both read and chanted. If you are learning Hebrew on your own, this is a must have addition to your learning arsenal. This audio set is also available on audio cassette.
Resources for familiarizing yourself with the Hebrew alphabet and learning how to read basic Hebrew...
If you do not yet read Hebrew, never fear. Through the National Jewish Outreach Program's (NJOP) free Hebrew Reading Crash Course you can learn to read Hebrew in about a week. As well, many synagogues and Jewish community centers offer Hebrew reading courses. If none of these options are available in your area, you will find that there are many excellent print primers, computer programs, and web resources available for independent, adult learns that can teach you to read Hebrew on your own, such as:
- Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew, by Ethelyn Simon and Joseph Anderson.
Designed for adult learners, this book serves as a self-study guide and textbook for beginning Hebrew students that teaches you the Hebrew alphabet and how to read and pronounce modern Hebrew.
- Ivrit Alfon, By Lois Rothblum, Bella Bergman, and Ora Band. This Hebrew primer/texbook takes about six weeks to work through.
- Learning to Read Hebrew. This is a computer program that assumes no prior knowledge of Hebrew.
- The New Reading Hebrew: A Guided Instruction Course, by Dr. C. Castberg and Lillian W. Adler. This is a self-guided, self-paced Hebrew primer that can be completed in a day or two.
- Learn to Read Hebrew. A free, online program offered by Beverly Hills Chabad.
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- Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step, Volume I, by Menahem Mansoor.
Offering a grammar-based introduction to Biblical Hebrew that starts at the bare basics of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and which will have you reading Biblical passages by the time you finish the text.
- Everyday Hebrew, by Eliezer Tirkel.
A 30-unit beginner's textbook that teaches colloquial Hebrew. This textbook is designed for use by independent learners, and is suitable for both high school and adult students.
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