Review of software to learn Hebrew

We live in an international society, especially with the internet.  It is now as easy to communicate with a person on the other side of the world as it is to communicate with your next door neighbor.  Do you want to “talk” through a news website?  Do you want to play games at Casino Red?  Or do you simply want to talk to a Native Israeli in Hebrew?

20 years ago, the options for trying to learn a foreign language were limited, especially when talking about a language like Hebrew which is not as popular as a language like Spanish.  But today the options are greater.

I will talk about old tried and true options, as well as more recent options.

Rosetta Stone Hebrew

Rosetta Stone uses the immersion method for teaching a language.  So when a person is trying to learn Hebrew, all spoken and written language is in Hebrew.  The main negative about Rosetta Stone Hebrew is that Rosetta Stone follows the same pattern for every single language.  The images are the same, and the order they are presented is almost the same.  I have noticed some slight variations between the English version of Rosetta Stone and the Hebrew version.

The target lessons for pronunciation, grammar, and writing are customized for each language.  But reading is the same.

In the extended learning section, there are extended passages to read in the language you are trying to learn.  But there are a lot more passages for English compared to Hebrew.

Finally, the most popular languages have 5 levels, while Hebrew only has 3 levels.

Rosetta Stone is great for understanding Hebrew in Hebrew.  I can pick up a book that has a majority of the vocabulary of words that I have learned in Rosetta Stone Level 1, and through the words that I know and pictures, I can understand a majority of the book.  I tried to read the book “My Book About ME” by Dr. Seuss in Hebrew, and after completing Level 1 of Rosetta Stone, I understood a majority of the book.

Pimsleur Hebrew

Pimsleur takes a different approach than Rosetta Stone.  Pimsleur is an audio program, and English is used to help with the learning.  Pimsleur will say something in English, and allow the listener to repeat what is said.

If you are looking for a program that will help your conversational skills, then Pimsleur is the program to get.  The program says something in English, and the student is expected to say the Hebrew.

I like the fact that this program puts in pauses, to give you time to say the Hebrew without having to pause the audio.  Then after Pimsleur says the Hebrew, there is another pause, you can repeat the Hebrew again.

I always hated other programs where I felt as if I had to constantly pause the audio in order to practice, and rewind, etc.  There was none of that frustration with Pimsleur.

Pimsleur is also a program that follows the same format for all of their languages.  And sometimes it feels as if the curriculum is outdated.  The student learns to ask for a beer or wine before learning to ask for water.  Since I was learning this with a minor, it was “silly”.

Hebrew From Scratch

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This is the traditional Ministry of Education Ulpan textbook for adult Ulpan Alef.  There is an audio CD, but the CD is designed for learning.  It is just somebody reading the text.  And the reading is one right after another, so if you are trying to practice a page, first you have to figure out where exactly on the CD is the recording that you are looking for.

Then it is just “read the text”, and then onto the next text.  No pause.  No practicing of the individual words or phrases.  Just literally an audio of the textbook.  Personally, I never found the audio CDs very helpful when compared with Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur.

On the other hand, since this is the “gold standard” is Israel for testing out of Ulpan Alef and Ulpan Bet, it is worth at least buying Hebrew from Scratch Level 1 (Ulpan Alef) and Level 2 (Ulpan Bet) to make sure your vocabulary is on par.

All New – הכל חדש

This is the traditional Ministry of Education Ulpan textbooks for children.  At one time, there were Adobe Flash programs that went with this program.  But the curriculum came out in the 1990s, and the corresponding website did not keep up with modern website technology.  So at this point, the corresponding website (and audio) that goes with these textbooks are useless.  Plus, there is no “Teacher’s Handbook” for English Speakers, so if you are trying to use this book by yourself (for either yourself or to learn with your child), you are going to have to look up each word yourself.

Duolingo

This is a free application online.  That is very enticing if a person is not ready to spend several hundred dollars for either Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur.

A lot of people like Duolingo.  The main disadvantage that I felt with Duolingo is that you are not “required” to speak.

Actually, I just looked up “speaking” to make sure that I was not missing something.  I turned out that I was missing something.  The speaking exercises with Duolingo do not start until you get past level 5.

As a reference, I just finished Rosetta Stone Level 1 (Unit 4), and I tested to begin at Level 6 in Duolingo.  So if you are looking for speaking from day 1, Duolingo is not the first application to start with.

Hebrew Pod 101

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I think that this website is more useful for intermediate learners.  I still consider myself to be a beginner learner.  So if you feel that programs like Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur are below your level, you may find Hebrew Pod 101 to be more around your level.

Language Learning with Netflix and YouTube

I am really looking forward to using this Chrome extension, but my level of Hebrew is not quite there yet.

The purpose of this extension is to allow you to see multiple subtitles for a Netflix show or YouTube video.  But it is not just showing both subtitles.  On the right side of the screen, where normally are related videos, is a dialog box that lists each text fragment from the subtitle file.  When you click on the section, you can see the translation for the statement.  Plus it will bring you to the part of the video where that phrase is said.

So the point is that you put the video on in Hebrew, and then if you have trouble with the Hebrew, you can click on the Hebrew phrase to see the English translation.

I really want to use this program, but right now I want to continue to build the foundation of my Hebrew skills.   I am currently working my way through Rosetta Stone, so I am hoping to use this extension after I finish Rosetta Stone Hebrew (Level 3).

Again, if you feel that Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur are below your level, then definitely add this extension to Chrome.  Then just search YouTube or Netflix for videos with Hebrew audio and with Hebrew subtitles.

Sense-lang.org (learn to touch type in Hebrew)

This is not a language learning program.  It is a touch typing program, but in 2021, if you are interested in learning a foreign language, learning how to touch type in that language is critical.

Shalom Hebrew (learn to read Hebrew)

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Shalom Hebrew teaches you how to read Modern Hebrew.  Although there are applications that provide transliteration of Hebrew (Hebrew words written in Latin characters), in my opinion, if you are serious about learning Hebrew, take a month and learn to read Hebrew properly.

A program like Pimsleur is a pure audio program, so you do not need to do any reading in order to use the program.  Rosetta Stone has the ability to click on any text to hear the audio, so again, you can theoretically use the program without knowing how to read Hebrew.  But Rosetta Stone (and other programs) will be a lot more enjoyable if you are not trying to learn to read Hebrew at the same time as you are trying to learn the grammar and vocabulary.

Hebrew with Pleasure (learn Hebrew Grammar)

This is a book with a corresponding audio file.  If you can read Hebrew, you can probably begin to work through the book yourself.  This is one the best books that I have found to explain Hebrew grammar that combines learning grammar with beginner vocabulary.

Personally, I think that it is hard to learn grammar while trying to learn a huge amount of vocabulary, at the same time.  Either you are focusing on the grammar or you are focusing on the vocabulary.  But trying to focus on both at the same time, in my opinion, can quickly become overwhelming.

So matter which program you decide to use to improve your Hebrew vocabulary, I would recommend buying this book.  Although I bought the audio disk that goes with this program, I have not used it yet, so I cannot comment on it.  At least for the first third of the book, I did not feel that I needed the audio.  So you can start out without the audio and then if you decide that you need the audio, you can purchase it later.

Summary

Although there are other applications and resources to use to help learn hebrew, the ones listed above are among the best.

There is no language learning application that is 100%.

  • Rosetta Stone – Good for Hebrew immersion
  • Pimsleur – Good for conversational Hebrew, English to Hebrew
  • “Hebrew with Pleasure” – Hebrew Grammar
  • Shalom Hebrew – Hebrew reading
  • Sense-lang.org – Hebrew touch typing
  • Language Learning with Netflix and YouTube – for when you advance beyond Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur

And of course, Duolinguo is free.   Another option instead of Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone.

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