Hebrew All Around Us
Hebrew is a language that teachers in Birmingham will encounter. There are many different communties that foster the learning of Hebrew. Jewish synagogues are wonderful places in which Hebrew is spoken in Birmingham. Some of the larger synagogues included Temple Beth-El on Highland, Temple Emanu-El on Highland, and Knesseth Israel Congregation. These large churches represent families of the Jewish faith. Teachers are encountering more and more Hebrew speaking children and parents within their classroom. The following photos are examples of Hebrew in our community.
The Language Links sections provides links to wonderful resources that will help teachers hear and learn the basics of Hebrew.
Language Links: Hebrew
The following website is a wonderful link to audio and video that will assist teachers in learning basic Hebrew language skills and survival terminology.
Overview of the Hebrew Language
Throughout the world, more than 4.6 million people speak Hebrew. It is primarily spoken in Israel, where, along with Arabic, it is one of the two official languages. Because Israel is a nation of immigrants, Hebrew is a second language for many of its speakers. Many Israeli Arabs also learn to speak Hebrew as a second language.
Hebrew belongs to the Semitic language group, which also includes Arabic. There are two main branches of Hebrew, called Ashkenasic and Sephardic. They differ mainly in their pronunciation of certain letters. Ashkenasic Hebrew was spoken by the Jews in Central Europe, while Sephardic Hebrew was spoken by those of the Mediterranean basin. Sephardic pronunciation is used in Israel.
Hebrew has made an amazing return from near-extinction. From the ninth century to the nineteenth century, the Hebrew language was not spoken extensively. Mostly, it was used in Jewish religious observance and by scholars studying the Old Testament. However, it underwent a renaissance when the Zionist movement-- begun in the nineteenth century to work for the establishment of a State of Israel-- decided that Hebrew should be Israel's official language. Hebrew was recognized as an official language of Jewish Palestine in 1922 and had established itself as a modern language by the time Israel was officially established in 1948. Modern Hebrew, adapted to meet modern needs, is somewhat different from the ancient language of the Bible from which it is descended.
Few English words come from modern Hebrew vocabulary, but many words come from the Hebrew of the Bible, including amen, hallelujah, and hosanna. In addition, many common names are of Biblical origin, including Adam, Daniel, David, Deborah, Dinah, Joseph, Miriam, and Rebecca. Some words that we think of as Yiddish actually come from Hebrew vocabulary, including maven, chutzpah, and schlemiel.
The exotic appearance of the Hebrew alphabet will prevent most English speakers who are learning Hebrew from imagining false relationships between written Hebrew words and English look-alikes. However, as you are learning to speak Hebrew, confusion can arise. The Hebrew vocabulary word mi (pronounced like the English word "me") means who; the word hu (pronounced "who") means he; and the word hi (pronounced "he") means she.
For more on the overview of the Hebrew Language, Click here.