Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hebrew Lessons in Cyberspace

Yom sheni, 9 Elul 5772.
Flash cards.  I don't know if they help, actually.  But they don't hurt.
It's the month of Elul -- and besides trying to get our act together spiritually before Rosh Hashanah, it is also a time when Jews start putting together the list of "Things I'm Finally Going to Improve.  Really.  This Year for Sure."  There can be no doubt that for the average oleh, the hardest struggle and the most important task is learning the Hebrew language.

There are no quick fixes.  People who immerse are much more likely to learn the language than people who live in communities of their linguistic peers.
Yeshiva Bochur saying "Lehitra'ot" to a favorite teacher at the Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu Ulpan at which he worked and learned for five months.
People who get jobs in the Israeli mainstream will learn faster, too.  "You want to learn Hebrew?" asked one friend.  "Go into business."  This includes kids in Israeli schools and soldiers.
Stunt Man and a friend from the Old Country barely speak pure English anymore.  "Or I'm going to Ireland, or I'm going to America after the army."  That is actually good Hebrew grammar.
For those of us (like the Dearly Beloved and me) who break all the rules of language immersion, staying in our little linguistic ghettos, working in our country of origin (either by commuting or by working on the internet in our mamaloshen), patience and persistence remain our most important tools.

There are a few additional tools, however, presented by individuals and organizations with the goal of helping the oleh to integrate as quickly as possible.  Lots of these tools cost money -- and some of them are so famous, they don't need my little blog to help them out.  Some are free, and for most people in my income tax bracket, free is a really good option.  Here is a sample of what is available out there in Cyberspace.

Ami Steinberger and Company at Ulpan La-Inyan make the experience of learning Hebrew as organic as possible, with topics that feel natural, using expressions and words that will come up in everyday situations.  Ulpan La-Inyan also teaches in a very natural way, the way a child learns language, rather than inundating the student with piles and piles of grammar laws.  Ami is an expert in Hebrew grammar -- so it is available.  Just not all-consuming of every last brain cell -- a fact which keeps his program fun, and effective.

Be sure to check out the Ulpan La-Inyan website, for more free stuff, and for the best ulpan available in Israel, when you are ready to get what you pay for.

Jacob Richman has made it his one-man mission to offer as many free aids to Hebrew language and cultural education as possible.  From online Torah to Jewish history and holidays, from recipes and radio stations to kashrut and clipart, Jacob's "Hot Sites - Jewish" is an aliyah resource to be visited again and again.

Another interesting website is Learn Hebrew Pod: Hebrew That Goes With You.  While the free lessons are actually a very nice sales pitch for the course, one can get a great deal even from these few free lessons.  The method of Hebrew conversation flowing more-or-less seamlessly with English translation is a refreshing approach when my mind is tired from more intensive study.

And if you haven't a lot of time each day to devote to learning the language, but want to feel "in the know" with a word or phrase added daily to your repertoire, you can also check out Transparent Language's "Word of the Day" in Hebrew, or of course, Ulpan La-Inyan's "Daily Dose" featured word or phrase, with detailed etymological explanations.

YouTube has lots of video clips from TV series and commercials in Hebrew.  I especially like the ads.  Good ads are often little short plays -- so one can feel a sense of accomplishment in finally understanding the little story in a one minute (or shorter) format, that can be paused and replayed as necessary.

Finally, Hebrew language study is never as much fun as when it's sarcastic political commentary, with English subtitles (for clarity.  But don't forgo the opportunity to listen without paying attention to the subtitles, just to test yourself).  Caroline Glick's Latma TV is an exceptional example of the genre.  Wicked enjoyment.

I tell everyone that I'll be in ulpan till I'm eighty.  (I can finally say this well enough in Hebrew to make Israeli young people laugh.  This makes me cool in two languages.  Woo-HOO.)  Please feel free to share with me any sites you have that will fill the gaps between enough money for ulpan tuition.  I wouldn't want to disappoint Ami and my other instructors when I finally get back to the classroom.

Now if I can just lose those last five kilos before Yom Kippur...


in the vanguard said...

I always think my hebrew is 90% good, until I here the Latma folks and I realize I'm stuck at 10%.

rutimizrachi said...

ITV: You know everybody's second favorite expression in Hebrew, right? "L'at, l'at." Stick with it. Those percentage points will climb. And you don't even live here yet! When you do, your comprehension will explode!!! (Pause.) Okay -- bad choice of words for my neighborhood...