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What writing system(s) does this language use?[edit | edit source]

Hebrew uses a right-to-left abjad system. The Hebrew alphabet consists of twenty-two letters and five final letters, and is derived from the Aramaic alphabet, which in its turn came from the Phoenician alphabet, the source of most writing systems known today. In Hebrew (and other Semitic) writing, most vowels are optionally written as diacritics.


diacritic — a mark added to a letter to change the way it is pronounced.

How many people speak this language?[edit | edit source]

Approximately 10 million people speak Hebrew. About 7 million of them live in Israel.

Where is this language spoken?[edit | edit source]

Modern Hebrew is spoken by many people all over the world and is the main language of Israel where it is the official language. Other countries with significant Hebrew speaking populations include Argentina, Belgium, The Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, Panama, United States and Uruguay.

What is the history of this language?[edit | edit source]

Hebrew is a very old language with ancestral links to Aramaic and Arabic. It was the language used to write most of the Jewish Bible, and was spoken in the Middle East. Hebrew stopped being a spoken everyday language when it was replaced by Aramaic, but continued to be used in the reading of the Jewish Bible texts and prayers. By the modern period, Hebrew had ceased to be the mother tongue of the Jewish people because many Jews had left Israel for other countries in the Middle East and Europe and had adopted the languages of their new countries. In Germany, Yiddish, a language based on German but mixed with many Hebrew, Russian and Polish words, arose and became popular. Judeo-Arabic also arose among some Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa, although many Jews in these lands, including those still living in the Land of Israel, used Arabic exclusively. Hebrew remained exclusively the language for religious purposes until it was revived by Eliezer ben-Yehuda at the beginning of the 20th century. Ben-Yehuda began to compile a dictionary which still bears his name today. His children grew up tutored by their father and became the first native speakers of the Hebrew language in the modern period.

Modern Hebrew, like ancient Hebrew, is written without vowels. Written Hebrew vowel symbols were invented by a group of Hebrew scholars named the Massoretes, who lived around Tiberias at the Sea of Galilee during the 10th century CE. The square script, familiar in modern Hebrew, also grew from this 10th century CE period. Hebrew script has evolved through the centuries, from the paleo script to the Qumran distinctive script to cursive script and finally to the modern square script.

Who are some famous authors or poets in this language?[edit | edit source]

The most famous text in the world, the Bible, was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Many religious believers believe that the Bible was inspired directly by God, so they would say that God is a very famous author in Hebrew. Another famous author in Hebrew is the Nobel Prize laureate S. Y. Agnon (pronounced Shay Agnon). Among the currently popular writers in Hebrew are Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, Zeruya Shalev and also David Grossman, who writes books for adults and for children.

What are some basic words in this language that I can learn?[edit | edit source]

Greetings ברכות
Hi/Hello היי/שלום (HAI/shaLOM)
Good morning בוקר טוב (BOker TOV)
Good day יום טוב (YOM TOV)
Good evening ערב טוב (Erev TOV)
Good night לילה טוב (LAIla TOV)
Good-byes להתראות
Goodbye! להתראות (leHITraOT, sometimes shortened to "להת" — "leHIT")
See you soon! נתראה בקרוב (NITraEH bekaROV)
Congratulations מזל טוב (MaZAL tov)
Basic Phrases ביטויים בסיסיים
Do you speak English/German/Hebrew? האם אתה מדבר אנגלית/גרמנית/עברית? (to a man: haEEM aTAH medaBER... to a woman: haEEM AT medaBEret... anGLEET/germaNEET/ivREET?)
Where is the bathroom? איפה השירותים? (EIfo haSHEruTEEM?)
Excuse me סליחה (sleeKHAH)
How are you? מה שלומך? (to a man: MAH shlomKHAH? to a woman: MAH shloMEKH?)
Everything is fine. הכול בסדר (haKOL beSEder)
What's happening? מה קורה? (MAH KoREH?)
What's up? מה נשמע/מה המצב? (MAH NishMAH/MAH HamaTSAV?)
I like ... said by a man: אני אוהב... (aNEE oHEV...); said by a woman: אני אוהבת... (aNEE oHEvet...)
I don't like ... said by a man: אני לא אוהב... (aNEE LO oHEV...); said by a woman: אני לא אוהבת... (aNEE LO oHEvet...)
My name is ... שמי הוא.../קוראים לי... (SHMEE Hu.../korEEM lee...)
I am... אני... (aNEE...)
Simple Words מילים פשוטות
Yes כן (ken)
No לא (lo)
Mother אימא (EEma)
Father אבא (Aba)
Dog כלב (KElev)
Cat חתול (hhaTOOL)
Car אוטו, מכונית (Oto, mekhoNEET)
Hot חם (hham)
Cold קר (kar)
  • the sound of 'kh' is like a 'h' coming from the back of your throat; 'hh' is a little less emphatic, at the beginning of a word

What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language?[edit | edit source]

Little Yonatan[edit | edit source]

Hebrew Characters Pronunciation English

יונתן הקטן
רץ בבוקר אל הגן
הוא טיפס על העץ
אפרוחים חיפש

אוי ואבוי לו לשובב
חור גדול במכנסיו
מן העץ התגלגל
ועונשו קיבל

Yonatan hakatan
Rats baboker el hagan
Hu tipes al ha'ets
Efrokhim khipes

Oi va'avoi lo lashovav
Khor gadol bemihnasav
Min ha'ets hitgalgel
Ve'onsho kibel

Little Jonathan
Ran to the park in the morning
He climbed up the tree
Looking for baby birds

Too bad for the rascal
There's a big hole in his pants
From the tree he tumbled
And got his punishment

A song for the Rain[edit | edit source]

Hebrew Characters Pronunciation English

גשם, גשם משמיים
כל היום טיפות המים
מחאו כף אל כף

Geshem, geshem mishamaim
Kol hayom tipot hamaim
Makhau kaf el kaf

Rain drops, Rain drops from the sky
All day long the Rain drops
Clap your hands together

* Tif-Tif-Taf — the sound of Rain drops in Hebrew.

References[edit | edit source]