Living Language Essential Hebrew – Review

Shalom! About a month ago, I finished a Hebrew language course that I picked up from the library. I had not even been intending to get it, I just saw it on the shelf and picked it up. What a positive thing that turned out to be! It was a handy, short course. It consisted of a book of ten lessons, with CD’s to go with it. The course takes a bit of an activity book format, with lots of fill in the blank and match the correct answer activities. However, since I had got it from the library, I couldn’t write in the book so I wrote my answers down in a notebook. This actually worked quite well and was not inconvenient at all. I would actually recommend doing something like that if you ever wanted to share the course with someone else, or give it away or sell it when you are done. After all, learning a language is WAY more fun when you get to speak it with real people!


Format

This is a convenient little course and very easy to chip away at. When I had time it was easy to get myself to work on, it was pretty enjoyable for me, and the progress is very tangible. You move through the course pretty fast and learn a lot in a short amount of time. I had the course for about three months – quite overdue – but some weeks I didn’t get to it much. I didn’t mind the traditional set up, as it was actually quite refreshing after all my online schooling to be able to learn away from my computer. I’m pretty sure there is an online version of the course as well however for those who would prefer it, as well as free bonus exercises on their website.

Learning the Script!


When I decided to learn a bit of Hebrew, I thought learning the alphabet was going to be a tiring and tedious process, not to mention confusing, having the script go right to left, but I was surprised how naturally it came and soon enjoyed writing sentences on my math homework in the strange characters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t list all of the letters off the top of my head like some courses will have you learn, but I recognize them and their sounds very easily and can pronounce many words if they are written with vowel marks (the Hebrew script traditionally includes only consonants). I liked the gradual, natural way this course taught the script, including transliteration so you can get right into the language from the start, not worrying about having to struggle through tedious memorization before you get to start speaking! I found the exercises effective and helpful, and I can remember loads even weeks after I have returned the course.

Teaching Method


The essential version of this course is a compact collection of useful grammar and vocabulary for many important situations you may find yourself in on a short trip to Israel. I haven’t had the opportunity to try many of my new skills yet, but I can easily remember how to order vegetable soup, and even go suit shopping. These skills are not rigid, however, and the course makes sure you know enough to express yourself a little bit and manipulate the language, even in such a compact course. It reinforces this ability by putting what you’ve learned in previous lessons into new contexts, showing you how to use grammar to structure your new vocabulary into anything you would like to say. Audio dialogues are included to practice your listening comprehension, and even role-play a bit at the end of the course. In real life, a native Hebrew speaker isn’t going to know what you’ve learned or not, and the dialogues reflect this by not just including what you’ve learned, but introducing new words and structures in the dialogues, and teaching them to you afterwards.

Note on the Editing


The cons of this course were few, but it did have some drawbacks. One of these drawbacks was editing. The course appeared to have quite a few errors throughout the book, with spelling being a little out of whack, and Hebrew sentences split between lines so that the words would be skewed out of order. Sometimes it was unclear whether it was a mistake in the book or I simply thought I understood what it was supposed to say better than I did, but I was not alone in noticing this, as a review on Amazon for this course actually brought it to my attention in the first place. This is not a massive problem if you know that the mistakes are there, but can be quite confusing, especially if you’re relying on the one course to know what’s correct and what’s not.

Cultural Context


The cultural information was decent, but not super extensive. One example was when they taught me the entire Gregorian calendar in Hebrew, but only gave me three months of the Hebrew calendar. However, this is a pretty silly thing to be annoyed about, and perhaps it was just saving that content for another lesson in one of the more advanced courses, which I haven’t taken yet. Another thing that I actually found very positive about the course was how it explained many of the literal meanings of the words and phrases it taught. For example: originally it taught that the words “ma shlomkha” meant, “How are you?” just to keep it simple, but later on in the lesson it explained that the word “shlomkha” is actually the same word as “shalom” with a suffix attached to it “kha” to indicate possession. So the phrase actually means something more like, “What/how is your wellness?” And since I know that the word “shalom” means “peace” I imagine that could also be translated as, “What/how is your peace?” giving me a bit of an insight into the world of Jewish culture and manners. Double thumbs up for that!

Recommendation and Price


So, is this course for you? Well, I would say that if you are looking for a solid introduction to the language of your dreams, without the commitment of expensive, live classes or long, tedious textbooks, then absolutely. At least to get started. I obviously still know very little Hebrew and don’t even know if my new skills are effective, having never tested them, but Google Translate seems to think I’m pretty good and let’s be honest, languages are fun! I’m confident I learned a lot, even if I’m not sure exactly where I stand now. This is a very low commitment purchase, being available for the shockingly low price of $22.95! You can find courses like it at pretty much any Chapters or Indigo, and I even got it for free from the library. The full beginner to the advanced course is also available for just over $50. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that! With just a little book and a few CDs, you can rest assured that by the end you’ll have a fun and complete introduction to the Hebrew script, as well as being armed with a good arsenal of useful vocabulary (as well as the knowledge to implement and adapt it). It will also give you a bit more understanding of the Hebrew mindset, and the exact meanings of all the words you say (e.g. “What colour is it” = “What colours does it have?”). Once again, you won’t go from zero to fluent with this course, and a lot of critical concepts are still to be explored in detail by the end, but that’s not exactly a fair expectation to be put on the first of three levels of language course! I’m sure that if you choose to get this course you’re going to have a blast mimicking the distinct and fun sounds of this wonderful language, and developing loads of new skills, up to the point where you’ll be able to confidently talk to your friend about your plans to spend an afternoon on the beach after your 11:00 o’clock meeting with your new lawyer.
I’m not an expert in Hebrew, or even in monitoring my own educational progress, but I feel that I can confidently say that this course will give you an excellent platform to advance in the future while making sure you get the most out of your current experience and having loads of fun with what you’ve got. Thanks to the Living Language team for the stellar course!

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