Main target audience
Many of American Jews can
read their Hebrew prayer; much less can understand what they read.
In this section of
Virtual Ulpan we'll discuss the vocabulary and grammar of what we read in our
weekly prayer, so we can not just read the Siddur, but also understand what it
reads. We'll take a closer look on some techniques which will let us guess the
meaning of words we do not exactly know.
Although I consider my
main target audience being able to read Hebrew letters, I do keep in mind that
many of my potential students cannot do that. That's why I include a "Latin"
transcription of Hebrew words in all the lessons. Don't be afraid, start
The ultimate goal is to
show that studying Hebrew might be a joy, and it's not hard at all. :)
Another goal is, to show that Hebrew language is built in a very logical way:
the structure of the word gives us a hint of its meaning.
And besides, there is a good reason why many vowels are written with those
little marks, and not full-citizen letters. And the reason is, they are of much
less importance indeed. Once you know the word, most probably you can
read-and-understand it without the exact vocalization (which can vary even for
the same word, for different reasons.)
Spot the Words: Verbs and Nouns
The most important step
in moving toward fluent understanding of Hebrew text is recognition of verbs and
nouns. A decent part of grammatic rules Semitic languages is built around verbs
(if you want to learn Arabic or Aramaic, it's exactly the same.)
So, if you're not
proficient with it yet, here are some tips:
verbs are present in 3 tenses: Past, Future, and Present (which is also
a Particip, or might be treated similar to Gerund in English.)
- Verbs in Past Tense
suffixes (see below),
and thus can be easily recognized.
- Verbs in Future
Tense have some typical preffixes (and sometimes suffixes too), and can be
easily recognized either.
technically speaking, Present Tense verbs in Hebrew are build as nouns,
and can be used as nouns. (They are somewhat reminding of the -ing form
- An "advanced" topic:
in the ancient Hebrew, the language of Holy Scriptures (as opposite to the
modern Israeli Hebrew) there is an "inversive Vav": it turns Past to Future,
and Future to Past: ויאמר
means "and he said" rather than "and he will say".
- Sounds weird,
- The truth is, the
above statement is a terrible simplification, just to teach you Hebrew in a
- I'm about to write
an article on this topic; but I wouldn't recommend it for total beginners. ;)