The Methodology of "At Home with Hebrew"

By Neal Walters

Hebrew consists of 22 consonant letters, and vowels, or Nikud, which are sometimes printed above or below the consonants. Most Israeli adults learn to read Hebrew without vowels. In fact, newspapers and magazines are printed without the vowel dots.

In Hebrew, vowels are called Nikud, and they are printed above or below the 22 letters. For example, the CHOLAM is a small dot written in the upper left position over a consonant. On the other hand, a CHIRIQ is a single dot written under a letter, and has a short "EE" sound.

In the software tutorial "At Home with Hebrew", letters are taught in pairs. Each lesson teaches a pair of letters, and introduces a new vowels or two. In this way, the student is not overwhelmed with too much information too fast.

When the student is beginning, English equivalents of Hebrew letters are used as part of the teaching methodology. For example, a "BET" without a dot is pronounced as "V", and a "BET" with a dot is pronounced as "B". Thus, in the first lesson, very few real Hebrew words can be taught; instead, nonsense syllables are presented to the student, such as: BEHBAH, VAHBAH, BEHVEH, BEHVAH, VAHV, BAHB.

Lesson number 2 then teaches two more letters (Gimmel and Dalet). In order not to overwhelm the student with too much new information at once, the new letters are rehearsed with vowels from the prior lesson. The syllables presented might include: DEHG, GEHD, DAHG, GAHD, DEHGAH, DEHDEH, DEHGEH, GAHGEH.

Then, slowly, two more vowels are introduced, for example the CHEEREK, which can be prounced like the "EE" sound. The same letter can then be practiced with the new vowels. For example: DEE, GEE, DAHDEE, DEED.

When the end of a lesson is reached, the tutorial returns to consonants that were taught in previous lessons. This helps the student to combine the old material with the new material. Example syllables reviewed might be: BAHBAH, BEED, GOOVOO, BEEGEE, BAHGOO, and so on.

When a new letter is introduced, such as the letter "Gimmel", the program compares that letter to other letters that might be similarly shaped. For example, GIMMEL is similar to VAV, GIMMEL has a boot at the bottom (kind of like the country Italy). The student can see both letters side by side, and the program describes the differences so the student will not be confused.

The student continues to learn, with just two consonants per lesson. By the end of the fourth lesson, all the vowels have been taught. By the end of the thirteenth lesson, the student will be able to read all twenty two letters and all the vowels. Thus, he or she will be able to pronounce any Hebrew word.

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