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Hebrew from Scratch, New Edition, Part 1

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Hebrew from Scratch, New Edition, Part 1

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Hebrew from Scratch, New Edition, Part 1
a.k.a.: Ivrit min ha-hathala, he-hadash, Aleph
By Shlomit Chayat, Sara Israeli, and Hilla Kobliner
Academon: The Hebrew University Students' Printing and Publishing House - Jerusalem, 2007
ISBN: 978-965-350112-6

Reviewed by Boris Segel - June 5, 2017

Hebrew from Scratch, New Edition, Part 1 is a Hebrew language textbook based on the Ulpan method of study. This book is used in many Israeli Ulpanim, as well as in many English-speaking universities and high schools. The text teaches modern Israeli Hebrew, and it is designed for adult students working with a teacher, who are just beginning their study of modern Hebrew. The text can also be used by self-learners - if you already have a basic familiarity with Hebrew, such as that gained from attending a once-a-week Hebrew class in high school or if you have completed a basic Hebrew primer. If you are a complete newbie to Hebrew, you may find this book hard to use on your own, as instructions in English are kept to a bare minimum.

If you do decide to tackle this book on your own, I highly recommend that you get a copy of the accompanying CD set. Throughout the text you'll find little headset icons, which correspond to the sections of the text that have been recorded on the CDs. These CDs are very helpful if are working on your own and need assistance in learning to pronounce the words correctly, and to practice your listening and comprehension skills. One word of caution - there is no English used in these recordings and you have to be careful to listen for the sound clues provided to tell when the reader is moving from one section to the next.

Hebrew from Scratch, New Edition, Part 1

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Once you become more familiar with Hebrew, you will find it easier to follow along with the recordings. However, when you are first starting out it can be difficult to tell where you are in the book. Also, beware that the recording starts out with the book's title, a list of authors, and the like, before moving onto the actual text. This can make it difficult for some learners to figure out when the recording gets in synch with the textbook, especially if you do not yet know how to read Hebrew.

Overall, I found this textbook to be fun and easy to follow. (I've some Hebrew under my belt already, but I tried to review this book as if I was just starting out.) The text starts out with the alphabet, and when first introduced, all words are presented in print, with vowels, as well as in script, without vowels. An English transliteration of each word is also provided (at least in the first several chapters, after which this practice is discontinued). These transliterations will help you learn to pronounce the words correctly. From the very beginning the book teaches you to write in script, and you are given ample practice in reading Hebrew in both its printed form, and in script.

In addition, this textbook also does double duty as a workbook. The text provides ample exercises so you can practice what you have learned - and space is provided in the text to do the exercises. In addition, the text is full of illustrations. For the most part, I personally do not feel that they add to the learners comprehension of the text, but they do provide some relief, and humor, from what might otherwise be a daunting textbook.

Throughout the text, you are also offered plenty of opportunities to practice your reading skills, and best of all, the vocabulary lists are not overly long. At the end of each chapter you will find a "Summary of Topics" section that includes a list of the main vocabulary words that you have learned in that chapter as well as some grammar tips. The vocabulary in this textbook includes not only the formal and academic terms that you'd expect to find in a language textbook, but also a slew of colloquial terms. You'll also learn some surprising words such as margarine, Coca-Cola, rock music, and archeologist, which you do not normally find in a beginning textbook. You'll also find that this text includes many modern words such as e-mail, cell phone, and microwave. This eclectic assortment of vocabulary words makes this text relevant to modern students, while also preparing them for more advance Hebrew courses.

By the end of this course/textbook, you'll have a firm grasp of basic Hebrew. The text provides ample exercises to practice the material, and relevant reading sections that progress in difficulty and length as you work though the book. Once you complete Hebrew from Scratch, Part 1, you can move onto Hebrew from Scratch, Part 2, or in many cases, onto an intermediate level class using any other textbook.

Personally, I'd have liked this book to go a bit heavier into Hebrew grammar. Nonetheless it does provide you with a solid foundation upon which to build your grammar skills, and it prepares you for more advanced classes. If you want some extra grammar instruction, there are many fine books available. My favorite is Modern Hebrew: An Essential Grammar, 4e, Lewis Glinert. It is reprinted every few years, and unless you need a particular edition for a class, you may be able to find a copy of the third edition of the book, at a cheaper price than the 4th edition. (I would, however, opt for the third edition over the second. The third includes a full answer key to the exercises, more material is covered, and it includes more examples and explanations than the second edition.) I'd also recommend that you get a Hebrew-English / English-Hebrew dictionary to use in conjunction with this book, as the 'dictionary' included at the end of the book does not appear to contain all the words used in the text.

In short, I found Hebrew from Scratch, New Edition, Part 1 to be an excellent beginner's book, if you are studying with a teacher, and a good "next-step" book for self-learners who have already completed a primer and/or have some basic Hebrew skills already under their belt. The two things that I liked best about this book are that it includes a treasure trove of exercises through which you can practice what you learn, and secondly the reading selections are varied and interesting. No matter what book you end up using in your Hebrew studies, let me offer you my best wishes on your studies. Learning Hebrew, or any other language, can be a difficult and time-consuming process. In the end, however, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts! Just keep reminding yourself of that ;-)


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