So I learnt Hebrew over the weekend

I am a recent listener to Tim Ferriss’ pod casts. In fact I heard my first Ferriss podcast last week. One of the things that Ferriss is famous for is “How to learn a language in an hour”. You can read about that in this article.

Coincidently a few things were happening in my life at about this time:

  1. I had updated my linkedIn profile and removed all references to the languages I spoke. ( I used to list 9 in that profile, but then I also listed my main occupation as Basket Ball Manager then.)
  2. I had recently spent some intensive-time (10 days, all day) with an Israeli academic-friend from a few decades ago. And had realised that I was collaborating with or was in the vicinity of 4 Hebrew speakers.

Somehow the two facts collided and I found myself setting a challenge to myself on Friday night that I would learn Hebrew by Sunday night. Its 8 PM on Sunday and I have learnt Hebrew! Here is what I have learnt:

  1. I know the Hebrew Alphabet, and can read simple words.
  2. I have a vocabulary of 200+words.
  3. I can pronounce ‘kh’ reasonably well.
  4. I am learning some of the words to 23 hebrew songs.

In short Tim Ferriss is right. The language deconstruction does take very little time, and the memorising of alphabets, words and phrases can be equally quickly accomplished.

Here is what I did.

First I set up the goal to learn the alphabet, a mistake in my Japanese language learning which I need to rectify. This is relatively easy – I used the online platform Memrise and found a Hebrew course on it. I have used Memrise in the past to learn Bahasa and its a brilliant way to just memorise a list of alphabets, words, or phrases.

I then looked at Youtube to find a bunch of video toturials. For this I went back to Innovative Language and their 101 series: Learn Hebrew with Hebrew Pod 101. They have a great set for vocabulary – which I used to get some words into my head. They also have an alphabet series – which I aim to get to when I feel the need to polish my alphabet learning.

Finally the most useful resource – which I completely plundered to get a lot of Hebrew learning happening was this site: www.teachmehebrew.com (TMH). The things I did on this site:

  1. I looked at the Tim Ferriss-like breakdown of Hebrew. Brilliant. Take a look here. I read this out into my phone, ripped the recording to mp3 and put in into my iTunes to listen to.
  2. I listened to the AlefBet song repeatedly (till the house banned me from playing it aloud). Memorising the names of the alphabets was quite quick, and I lay in bed this morning reviewing it in my mind.
  3. I went into Memrise and memorised the alphabet forms. The started doing simple words.
  4. I began listening to the 23 songs in the TMH site. I spent 2 hours doing this. These sounds are embedded in my brain. I plan to go to the TMH site and scan the lyrics on screen as I listen to the songs – sometime in the future.
  5. I played the 100 words on TMH – so I am familiar with the sounds. Will go and put this into my memory later, in the future. Will do the same with Phrases, Verbs and other bits on this site.

Then I went looking for Apps – so I can have a learn+quiz format to keep learning.

  1. I found this brilliant app by RBBell – to learn the alphabet. You can all his other apps here. By 6 PM today I had a B+ in the hebrew alphabet. You learn the alphabet and then you test yourself and you can keep repeating this cycle till you get perfection.
  2. Another App I downloaded (iTunes) is Nemo Hebrew. This is for words. I am yet to play with this.

Last words from Ferriss:

In all cases, treat language as sport.

Learn the rules first, determine if it’s worth the investment of time (will you, at best, become mediocre?), then focus on the training. Picking your target is often more important than your method.

Lehitra’ot!

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