Tip of advice for those struggling to start learning Hebrew...
I've seen comments on this discussion thread and on the Duolingo Hebrew learners facebook page mentioning how the course is very hard for those just starting out with the language. I myself have been struggling with it, but I found something surprisingly simple to help me get past the alphabet section: writing. When I first jumped into the Hebrew course, I was expecting it to be like the other courses, to be relatively simple and that I could breeze through the first few skills and then call it a day. But that didn't happen. I was very confused after the first few lessons. For a little while, I was even thinking about giving up, after only an hour of trying the course because I thought I wouldn't ever get it. But I decided not to, and thankfully, I found a way to make it easier. Write down the alephbet! Put down each letter (its ending counterpart too, if it has one), its name on one side, and then the sound(s) that the letter makes. I know it seems unbelievably simple and like it really wouldn't help, but it does, or at least it did for me. Think of it like a cheat-sheet, and as you see new words, especially if the word isn't already pronounced for you, look at its letters and use your cheat-sheet to see what sounds it could make. It makes reading and pronouncing Hebrew much less intimidating knowing how the words sound.
Bonus tip: Try not to let the audio overwhelm you. Look at your cheat-sheet and see if you can understand how the letters make the word(s) pronounced the way they are.
Hope this Helps!
Yes , the alphabet is key !! That is a basic truth i guess , i always tell people there are only so many things you need to learn , PILLARS IF YOU WILL .... 1 ) ALPHABET / PRONUNCIATION , 2 ) BASIC GRAMMAR ( SENTENCE STRUCTURE / WORD ORDER ) 3 ) VOCABULARY And 4 )PRACTICE , Obviously but thats really all it is , so learn the alphabet and very basic rules and then practice practice practice , and you build your vocab. Time is going to pass either way right ? ......Why not . You will learn !! Giving up is the only thing that can stop you , there are many babies that will learn this language , why cant you ??
Yes, I think this is a general problem in Duolingo - it start with immersion right away, without explaining any of the basics - what is the new language's alphabet? How are the written words spoken (pronunciation)? Yes, you can learn this by immersion too and make the generalizations yourself from the examples you see, but this is a very slow process, and frankly, more suitable for a child immersed in a language for 10 hours a day, than an adult who's trying to be "immersed" in a foreign language for 30 minutes a day and see some progress in his effort. Beyond the initial explanations on alphabet and pronunciation, I think Duolingo also needs explanations in the middle of the course. Sometimes you can press on the "discussion" link in an exercise and see people pointing you to other sites explaining important issues, but it should be an official part of the course. Yes, again you can make the generalizations yourself, but it's sometimes very hard, and it's always very slow. Also remember, that even native speakers do learn grammar in school, and not just by immersion. Those that do not learn grammar in school, sometimes make mistakes which are "natural" but looked upon as uneducated, and you don't want to learn uneducated language.
I think writing by hand is so useful and so sadly neglected when it comes to new alphabets. I haven't used the alphabet except for very tiny amounts for a couple of years at least, but it's still in my head, and I think it's because in my first Hebrew learning efforts, I wrote everything by hand.
(Also, Hebrew cursive is pretty!)
Not sure about reading letter by letter - given that some letters would be pronounced differently depending on the word, but I agree 100% with writing suggestions. When I study languages I don't normally write, it's not my way. But with Hebrew I had to invest a lot of time in writing, I learned hand writing version right at the beginning, and made sure to write down all the exercises, everything. That was a very worthy investment of time. And I lived in Israel, so was surrounded by the language, for those of you who are not in Israel, you should spend even more time just reading letters and writing them down, even if you don't understand the meaning yet. But as soon as you pass through this stage, Hebrew is not that hard (especially for Russian speakers - he-he).
I was hoping the first lessons on the alphabet would simply be something like flash cards which displays a Hebrew letter and we voice back the letter. I think the current approach of display complete sentences and words are a bit much for those simply trying to match a single letter to a sound.
BTW, I am not throwing in the towel. Just need to find a way for me to able to master a single letter at a time.
We considered doing this, but it doesn't really work, since each letter can have several values. ב can be b or v, י can be y, i, e, א can be pretty much any vowel, or silent. We start off really slowly, just three letters and very short words, so go as slowly or as quickly as you like, and keep referring to the tips and notes. Good luck!