Modern Hebrew questions

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Cavesa
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Modern Hebrew questions

Postby Cavesa » Sat Jun 25, 2016 6:41 pm

Okay, before you say I am crazy, I'd like to defend my questions: no, I don't have time to learn Hebrew now and the wanderlust bug isn't attacking me more fiercely than usual, even though there are many great things about Hebrew. I heard one or two songs I liked, I met some nice Israeli people etc. It is simply a fascinating language. I am not jewish but I value their religion and culture greatly and would eventually love to learn more about this pillar of the european civilization, which is another great reason to learn it. One day, when I have time to choose an exotic langauge, Hebrew is one of the most probable choices. As I am interested in it, I would really appreciate if you could save me some searching (and procrastination excuses), please.

1.Sure, Hebrew is harder than the most mainstream languages I have been learning. But what have you found especially hard about it? Are some parts actually easier than one would expect? From all I have heard and found, I don't think the pronunciation should pose a big problem for a Czech native (I'd guess less than English.). But what is the grammar difficulty like? Is the vocabulary related or in general very distant from the European langauges?

2.Is it hard to find resources for learners? We have probably all heard about new Duolingo course but that is usually just a complement to other sources, of course it cannot suffice, especially for such a different language. Are good quality coursebooks, podcasts,grammars hard to access? Some Arabic learners or potential learners are unsettled by the omnipresense of religion in the learning materials, as I have read on the internet and noticed myself during some of my procrastination sessions. It is understandable, as many Arabic learners have converted and the religion is their main reason to learn the langauge. Is the jewish religion present so much in learner aimed stuff, or is it represented approximately as much as we are used to in langauges of the secular countries?

3.The native media. What is the original Israeli literature like, which genres are thriving? Are there many popular tv series or does Israel rely more on import? The movies? Some music? (I have recently found some Arabic songs and it is awesome to listen to things I cannot understand at all while studying, Hebrew would be awesome in this aspect as well). When it comes to the "amount of cultural products" (sorry, I know you might dislike the term but I found none better), is it comparable or significantly bigger/smaller than that of langauges with similar amount of natives (Swedish, Czech, Dutch,etc.)?

4.In general, would you say the natives are learner-friendly or are they more reserved about giving you an opporutnity to practice? I suppose the Israeli tend to be very good at English in general, am I correct?

Thanks in advance for satisfying my curiousity :-)
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby Seneca » Sat Jun 25, 2016 7:56 pm

I have read the Assimil course is solid, though only 85 lessons. Perhaps that combined with finding a news site with transcripts could keep you busy a while.
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby ilmari » Sat Jun 25, 2016 9:44 pm

A few short answers:

1. Hebrew is a Semitic language, and has the typical difficulties of other Semitic languages, i.e. no (or partial) vowelling of the script, a rich vocabulary derived from three-letter roots, etc. But modern Hebrew is also a modern language, which has been heavily influenced by European languages, so the sentence structure is simpler than that of older forms of Hebrew or of Arabic. As for the vocabulary, if you learned some Arabic, it shouldn't be too hard to memorize. Regarding the pronunciation, modern Hebrew has lost some consonantal distinctions (tav and tet, khet and khaf, sin and samekh, etc.), which makes it easier to pronounce than Arabic. The downside is that the orthography is slightly more difficult, as you have a few pairs of letters having the same sound, but it is not such a big deal. A real difficulty with the pronunciation is the stress rules (which syllable is stressed in a word). These are quite complex and can be acquired only by habit, so a correct pronunciation involves a lot of listening.

2. Religion is not particularly present in the learning material, just as a part of the general culture. Most of the textbooks you may encounter are aimed at people emigrating to Israel, so they mostly deal with everyday situations.

3. You can easily find links on the internet, but there is plenty of music, films and TV series in Hebrew, many of excellent quality.

I hope this helps a bit.
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby Cavesa » Sat Jun 25, 2016 10:08 pm

Thanks for answers!

I am not starting now, I am rather considering options for future

I have no direct experience with learning Arabic, I only learnt about it, as I found it interesting. Therefore there would be no related bonus for me, even though it must be nice for the people who have managed to learn one semitic langauge already. The stress rules sound scary!

The cultural note sounds very promising and some of these things might be great to find out even if I never decide to learn Hebrew in the end.

Thanks!
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby Allison » Sun Jun 26, 2016 12:57 am

Cavesa wrote:3.The native media. What is the original Israeli literature like, which genres are thriving? Are there many popular tv series or does Israel rely more on import? The movies? Some music? (I have recently found some Arabic songs and it is awesome to listen to things I cannot understand at all while studying, Hebrew would be awesome in this aspect as well). When it comes to the "amount of cultural products" (sorry, I know you might dislike the term but I found none better), is it comparable or significantly bigger/smaller than that of langauges with similar amount of natives (Swedish, Czech, Dutch,etc.)?

Just from the perspective of an American TV fan, it seems like Israel has a thriving export of TV shows. A bunch of American TV shows are based on Israeli shows—for example, Homeland (based on Hatufim) and In Treatment (based on BeTipul). And I know Americans who have gotten hooked on Srugim.
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby aokoye » Sun Jun 26, 2016 1:35 am

I'm currently registered to start taking Hebrew this fall (late September) at my university so I'll let you know how it goes. I am doing it partially for religious reasons BUT also because in order to get a major in applied linguistics at my school you need to take at least two terms of a non Indo-European language. I will definitely try to remember to let you know how it goes.

The book that my university uses for the first year is Hebrew From Scratch: Part 1 which is in all in Hebrew. The publisher also has a version with English instructions and Hebrew-English vocabulary lists. I'm not sure how much religious content is in the book but, like someone else mentioned, while Modern Hebrew is based off of Biblical (sometimes called Classical) Hebrew, it is different. I have a good friend who grew up going to Jewish day schools and whose husband is a Rabbi. When I asked her how easy it is for her to communicate in Israel using Hebrew she said that she can sometimes read the signs but that she sounds like an old Jewish grandmother (who doesn't live in Israel) - which is to say the Hebrew that she's using (Biblical Hebrew) doesn't sound like sound like the Modern Hebrew an Israeli citizen would be speaking. There's also a very large secular population within Israel which makes me think even more strongly that there probably won't be much religious content in the textbooks.
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby Saim » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:12 am

Cavesa wrote:1.Sure, Hebrew is harder than the most mainstream languages I have been learning. But what have you found especially hard about it?


Vocabulary. I used to find it really hard to memorise Hebrew words because they were in a foreign script I wasn't used to, and one where I had to guess the vowels. I would often mix up similar words that had some of the same consonants (מועדון and מועמד, for example).

I reckon I did too little rote memorisation of words at the beginning of my learning process.

It's hard to get verb conjugations exactly right because there are several binyanim (conjugation paradigms) that verbs can conform to. However, all the binyanim are similar and Israelis will still understand you in most cases if you mix them up or replace some tzeire (e) with a hiriq (i) or something.

2.Is it hard to find resources for learners? [...] Is the jewish religion present so much in learner aimed stuff, or is it represented approximately as much as we are used to in langauges of the secular countries?


No, there are loads of resources, much more than most languages with this number of speakers. Religion is hardly mentioned.

3.The native media. What is the original Israeli literature like, which genres are thriving? [...] When it comes to the "amount of cultural products" (sorry, I know you might dislike the term but I found none better), is it comparable or significantly bigger/smaller than that of langauges with similar amount of natives (Swedish, Czech, Dutch,etc.)?


I haven't gotten much into literature, but I can tell you that Israeli popular culture is really vibrant. There's lots of popular TV shows, good movies and all sorts of music (lots of great hip hop). I think it's quite a bit less Anglicised when it comes to popular culture than any of the Scandinavian or Dutch-speaking countries; friends who've been to Israel tell me that they often play Israeli music in dance clubs, which doesn't happen much even in Spain for example.

They're definitely one of the most Anglophile countries in the world, but they're also for better or for worse (mostly for worse in my humble opinion) quite patriotic and Hebrew-speaking culture has a lot of prestige. They're also totally used to speakers of other languages learning it:

-20% of Israeli citizens are native speakers of Palestinian Arabic who are mostly proficient in Hebrew.
-Among older Israelis there are many (Jewish) native speakers of Iraqi Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Ladino, Yemeni Arabic among many others. Israeli families who've been there for more generations know that they have ancestors who spoke Yiddish, German, Ladino, Hungarian, Russian, and others.
-Among more recent Jewish immigrants (known as עולים in Israel, or "ascenders"), about a million are native-speakers of Russian and there are large communities of English, French, Amharic and Spanish-speakers as well.
-Among Israeli-born Jews there are Yiddish-speaking ultra-Orthodox Jews who are all proficient in Israeli Hebrew even if they're not big fans of using it.

4.In general, would you say the natives are learner-friendly or are they more reserved about giving you an opporutnity to practice? I suppose the Israeli tend to be very good at English in general, am I correct?


All the Israelis I've talked to have allowed me to practice Hebrew with them. But then again I haven't been to Israel yet, I've met relatively few Israelis and it's only recently that my Hebrew's really any good.
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby tarvos » Sun Jun 26, 2016 5:27 pm

Cavesa wrote:Okay, before you say I am crazy, I'd like to defend my questions: no, I don't have time to learn Hebrew now and the wanderlust bug isn't attacking me more fiercely than usual, even though there are many great things about Hebrew. I heard one or two songs I liked, I met some nice Israeli people etc. It is simply a fascinating language. I am not jewish but I value their religion and culture greatly and would eventually love to learn more about this pillar of the european civilization, which is another great reason to learn it. One day, when I have time to choose an exotic langauge, Hebrew is one of the most probable choices. As I am interested in it, I would really appreciate if you could save me some searching (and procrastination excuses), please.

1.Sure, Hebrew is harder than the most mainstream languages I have been learning. But what have you found especially hard about it? Are some parts actually easier than one would expect? From all I have heard and found, I don't think the pronunciation should pose a big problem for a Czech native (I'd guess less than English.). But what is the grammar difficulty like? Is the vocabulary related or in general very distant from the European langauges?


The grammar isn't so hard, it's just really based on knowing the roots and binyanim. Once you get used to the different system, it's perfectly logical and easy. Probably the easiest there is.

2.Is it hard to find resources for learners? We have probably all heard about new Duolingo course but that is usually just a complement to other sources, of course it cannot suffice, especially for such a different language. Are good quality coursebooks, podcasts,grammars hard to access? Some Arabic learners or potential learners are unsettled by the omnipresense of religion in the learning materials, as I have read on the internet and noticed myself during some of my procrastination sessions. It is understandable, as many Arabic learners have converted and the religion is their main reason to learn the langauge. Is the jewish religion present so much in learner aimed stuff, or is it represented approximately as much as we are used to in langauges of the secular countries?


It's not a big deal but you'll notice it a bit with Israeli cultural notes. I used The Routledge Introductory Course to Modern Hebrew.

3.The native media. What is the original Israeli literature like, which genres are thriving? Are there many popular tv series or does Israel rely more on import? The movies? Some music? (I have recently found some Arabic songs and it is awesome to listen to things I cannot understand at all while studying, Hebrew would be awesome in this aspect as well). When it comes to the "amount of cultural products" (sorry, I know you might dislike the term but I found none better), is it comparable or significantly bigger/smaller than that of langauges with similar amount of natives (Swedish, Czech, Dutch,etc.)?


Hebrew has much better pop music. Aviv Geffen, Miri Mesika, Ninet Tayeb...

4.In general, would you say the natives are learner-friendly or are they more reserved about giving you an opporutnity to practice? I suppose the Israeli tend to be very good at English in general, am I correct?


Israelis are very direct but they love it when you speak Hebrew :)

Thanks in advance for satisfying my curiousity :-)
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Re: Modern Hebrew questions

Postby AML » Thu Jun 30, 2016 1:41 am

Cavesa wrote:1.Sure, Hebrew is harder than the most mainstream languages I have been learning. But what have you found especially hard about it? Are some parts actually easier than one would expect? From all I have heard and found, I don't think the pronunciation should pose a big problem for a Czech native (I'd guess less than English.). But what is the grammar difficulty like? Is the vocabulary related or in general very distant from the European langauges?


Difficulty depends on the person, but the verb constructions (binyanim) are hard until you memorize them cold. The vocabulary is less extensive compared to English, so that's a little easier. The grammar is fine, actually, it's just a matter of getting used to it (prefix prepositions for example). The vocab is, overall, distant from European languages, though some words are copied directly (GPS, musica, etc).

Cavesa wrote:2.Is it hard to find resources for learners? We have probably all heard about new Duolingo course but that is usually just a complement to other sources, of course it cannot suffice, especially for such a different language. Are good quality coursebooks, podcasts,grammars hard to access? Some Arabic learners or potential learners are unsettled by the omnipresense of religion in the learning materials, as I have read on the internet and noticed myself during some of my procrastination sessions. It is understandable, as many Arabic learners have converted and the religion is their main reason to learn the langauge. Is the jewish religion present so much in learner aimed stuff, or is it represented approximately as much as we are used to in langauges of the secular countries?


There are enough resources. Use Teach Me Hebrew (.com), Assimil Hebrew (now in English), and Hebrew Podcasts (.com) to get you to at least intermediate stage.

Cavesa wrote:3.The native media. What is the original Israeli literature like, which genres are thriving? Are there many popular tv series or does Israel rely more on import? The movies? Some music? (I have recently found some Arabic songs and it is awesome to listen to things I cannot understand at all while studying, Hebrew would be awesome in this aspect as well). When it comes to the "amount of cultural products" (sorry, I know you might dislike the term but I found none better), is it comparable or significantly bigger/smaller than that of langauges with similar amount of natives (Swedish, Czech, Dutch,etc.)?


TV: watch Ramzor
Movies: Footnote, Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, etc, etc, etc
Music: actually check out, again, Teach Me Hebrew.com for a few dozens example songs with lyrics.

Cavesa wrote:4.In general, would you say the natives are learner-friendly or are they more reserved about giving you an opporutnity to practice? I suppose the Israeli tend to be very good at English in general, am I correct?


Israelis speak good English, but are also very willing to speak Hebrew with you if you make the effort. They won't automatically switch to English on you like the Dutch or Scandinavians. :)
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