How do I teach myself conversational Hebrew?
February 22, 2018 2:13 PM   Subscribe

By way of Eytan Fox's movies, and plenty more after that, I have recently developed a taste for all things Israeli, and I want to learn basic spoken Hebrew. I will probably visit the country within the next two years and I like the idea of knowing at least a few words in advance. I have watched a ton of Isareli movies with subtitles, but all I've been able to gather so far were Shalom for Hello and Tov for good/well.

So I'm starting from zero. But I speak 5 languages so I'm good at picking new ones.

What is the easiest, passive, way to go about it? Are there some short educational videos I could watch or podcast I could listen to? Or better yet, some political or historical programmes about Israel but really accessible? I am not Jewish and have no interest in religious stuff. And I think learning to read would be too difficult for this 52 year old.
posted by Kwadeng to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's always Duolingo.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2018

Streetwise Hebrew is a wonderful podcast and the episodes are short, interesting and make thinking about Hebrew so much fun.

Also, there might be some stuff here that interests you:

Lastly, a youtube playlist of (mostly) classic Israeli songs with English subtitles
posted by beisny at 4:35 PM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Learn Hebrew Pod
posted by kitten magic at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2018

Seconding Duolingo has an option. It's free, works both on your browser as well as having an app. I am learning Hungarian and while there definitely "quirks" in learning languages this way - some of the sample sentences to translate are awkwardly phrased to a fault - it is quite a lot of fun.
posted by vac2003 at 6:25 PM on February 22, 2018

I learned Hebrew in my early twenties (after same rudimentary knowledge from childhood). Everyone learns languages differently but for me, learning the basic grammar of Hebrew was essential to making sense of the language (rather than just learning phrases by rote). Hebrew is like a Romance language in that it conjugates for gender (of subject, object, and verb) but it has some differences, being a Semitic language (it has a root system).

One idea for learning conversational Hebrew is to check out the local JCC to see if they have any classes or like "speak Hebrew" events. Sometimes you can find Israelis there that are happy to talk to you. With the caveat that they will be nosy and ask you if you're Jewish and then (when you say that you're not) why you're learning it! But in general, Israelis are warm and I think they'd be happy that you're curious about the country (and Eytan Fox.

When you get a chance, read up on its history and revival. It's a fascinating language. Good luck! Be'hatzlacha!
posted by zebrabananafish at 10:42 PM on February 22, 2018

Oops, I just noticed you're in Cameroon! Well, finding a JCC (Jewish Community Center) there might be a challenge. (I assume!?)
posted by zebrabananafish at 10:50 PM on February 22, 2018

Duolingo for Hebrew is really good; I use it to keep mine fresh between trips to Israel. I suggest picking up a book that covers grammar well in addition, though, because Hebrew grammar can get weird in ways that it’s good to be aware of, and generally Duolingo won’t really explain why certain weird conjugations are happening.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:15 PM on February 22, 2018

Oops, I just noticed you're in Cameroon! Well, finding a JCC (Jewish Community Center) there might be a challenge. (I assume!?)

Indeed! There are no more than a handful of Israeli expats working in Government security and IT / Telecoms consulting. And to my knowledge, no Jewish community. But thanks.

Duolingo will do just fine.
posted by Kwadeng at 7:10 AM on February 23, 2018

I wasn't even trying to learn Hebrew yet picked up many word watching Srugim on Netflix.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2018

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