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Native Hebrew speakers - how are students viewed?

I have a question for native Hebrew speakers. How do you think the average Hebrew speaking person views someone with zero ties to the Jewish community or Israel and wants to learn Hebrew?

There are some of us who have a genuine interest in Hebrew. I am fascinated by the language's history, alphabet, and sound. I would like to learn about the grammar and the culture involved. So what is the reaction of the average Hebrew speaker to someone such as me? Would the average speaker wonder "why is this person learning Hebrew?"

Often when I meet German-speaking people I am asked why I learned German. One German friend asked me if I took German in school "voluntarily" or if it was some sort of requirement. She found it very interesting that someone actually wanted to learn German.

So would the average native speaker view a student with suspicion? Would they be welcomed into a discussion?

June 23, 2016



I am also a non-Jewish learner, not a native speaker, but keep in mind that the Hebrew Revival is RECENT (Hebrew as a colloquial language wasn't widespread anywhere, until taking off in Tel Aviv in the first couple decades of the 20th century). Most living Israelis' grandparents didn't speak Hebrew as their mother tongue! There is a strong cultural tradition in Israel of trying to keep people learning and speaking Hebrew (sure, "יהודי, דבר עברית" doesn't technically apply to non-Jewish people, but that's the attitude native speakers have grown up with, and that they share with the still-plentiful newcomers making Aliyah). The Israelis I've spoken to have been nothing but helpful and encouraging.


I'm Israeli-American and despite living in America all my life, I grew up speaking Hebrew and have been to Israel many times. To me, when I think of a non-Jewish American learning Hebrew, I think of evangelicals trying to be more "authentic". Before looking through the duolingo Hebrew thread, I never even thought that there were people who want to learn Hebrew just because they actually like it. That's pretty cool. So kudos to you.

So no you would not be viewed with suspicion and yes you will (most likely) be welcomed into a discussion.


Glad to hear it! So often people ask if there is an "ulterior motive" to learn languages that aren't as popular, and they don't realize that sometimes you want to learn a language just because you like the sound of it! Only a few thousand people speak Irish, yet I want to learn it because I think it is a beautiful sounding language! Hebrew is the same way, and the Israeli culture is so interesting (not to mention good food!), why wouldn't you want to learn Hebrew?


Really, you guys like the sound of Hebrew? I always assumed it sounds harsh and awful (native so wouldn't know).


I think everyone has different perceptions of what is and isn't beautiful. I don't understand why people go all loopy over Romance languages, I don't find them particularly attractive - and I think Romanian is an order of magnitude prettier than the others I've heard (which is basically all the bigger ones and a couple of the minority languages).

People say Slavic languages are harsh or ugly, I think they're beautiful! Russian is gorgeous, I don't understand why anyone wouldn't agree!

And yeah, I really like the sound of Hebrew... it has this weird but attractive mixture of melodiousness and clickety clack words and gutterals, and I just like it.

To add my two pennorth to the pretty Hebrew, I love this song - I don't remember when or how I first came across it, but I loooove it.

I can't find the actual music video, but this one has the lyrics and a transliteration and a translation (I don't know how good the translation is, but I figure it's a start) , so it seems appropriate for a language learning site! https://youtu.be/qCpu73rg2ME


זה שיר יפה!

While this one might be a little cliche, I still think that the Hebrew translation is the best sounding! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lJgES_VvRSE


I can't speak for everyone, but to me it is a beautiful language. I love the sound of words like ״אהבה״ and the ״ים״ ending. Also, there's this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7SquuW7V45A


I think יונה is the most beautiful word I've ever come across in any language!


Interesting! :)


Students usually like to listen to pop/contemporary which is totally understandable. I feel like posting this, an oldie and one of my favorite songs. They used to pronounce things a bit differently. She pronounces things very clearly I believe, but it's a bit too poetic if you're just starting out, maybe :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq2o1cr7ffU


As a native Hebrew speaker, i think that this language has more connection to the israeli cultre(or, the jewish nationality) and less of the jewish religion type. So i would'nt see it as a wierd thing, and i don't think israelis will see it wierd either. when you are fascinated by somthing, go for it!


we are always happy when non-israeli or non-jewish people learn our language! people won't view you with suspicion or contempt, rather quite the opposite. israelis will appreciate your effort to get more in touch with our culture. בהצלחה לכולכם!


כל כך נכון


I'm a native Hebrew speaker and I think learning different languages is generally fun and helpful. Everyone has his or her reasons for learning, you don't need to be Jewish. On the contrary the fact you decided to study Hebrew which can be quite difficult at times just makes me think "this person likes challenges", so respect for that :) and of course בהצלחה!


I have a Jewish email contact given to me by a mutual friend. She was very encouraging when I told her I wanted to learn more about Jewish culture. However, when I asked her for a recommendation for learning the language (I didn't know this course was about to release at the time), she seemed kind of offended. She said that learning Hebrew is a lifetime process. Which, I know that's true, but you can say that about any language. Anyway, I am always seeking knowledge, and a little is better than none - even if I never master this language. I am so happy to hear other native speakers do not feel offended! (And maybe I just misunderstood her - it's hard to read someone's intent through an email.)


As a native Hebrew speaker who is also religious and lives in Israel , I would have to agree to what some people here have said before. Hebrew is very important to the Jewish traditions as for the prayers and services are supposed to be in Hebrew (according to the "Halacha"- the Jewish laws). Nevertheless, as a person who is fascinated by languages, I think learning Hebrew is a nice goal to aim at since it includes totally different letters! So high five to all of you guys who try to learn Hebrew!!


I am not a native speaker, but I am in Israel right now and I have found most hebrew speakers to be pleasently surprised with my knowledge of the language. Like most countries they don't expect an American like me to be able to speak anything but english. Most people are very kind here and I have seen no conflict whatsoever, despite what you hear about the country on the news. I have had several conversations with natives in hebrew and they seem to appreciate me taking the time to learn their language and their culture. I have had a wonderful experience here and I can't wait to come back in the future.


Well I can't speak for all of us but to hear that someone is learning Hebrew is surprising on it's own, and someone without any ties to it, is even more surprising

but of course a nice surprise :)


I would think that it's most welcome that you are interested at our language. Most of the ppl will appreciate it alot that someone from outside is trying to learn our language. Considering we have alot of people here that don't speak hebrew and they are sometime treated as second class citizens because they are refusing to assimilate, so i would think that someone from outside will be treated with alot of respect!


My actual experience speaking Hebrew with Israelis mostly came from our driver/tour guide teaching me (on my insistence!) בוקר טוב, שלום, תודה, בבקשה, so it was a very small amount and mostly only used on one person, but the times I used it, people were very friendly and happy about it, and Yossi was thrilled that I wanted to learn a few words. I think he thought it was pretty funny, but he was happy as well as amused by it.


It is always nice to hear that someone is interested in you and your culture, Language is part of the culture isn't it?


Well, I can only answer for myself. I find it quite extraordinary that someone would choose a rather useless language such as Hebrew, especially when they're not Jewish and have no connection with Israel, and not religious in any other way. I'd probably ask why you're doing this! BUT, as someone who loves learning languages that's not at all weird to me. And Hebrew (and other Semitic languages) I think is very special and has very interesting structure. I don't think it would be viewed with suspicion, but people would probably wonder why you're doing this. I believe most people would appreciate it and would love to help you out :)


Wow, you're already a level 12!


lol :) what can i say, it felt so natural


I am so thrilled to see this thread. After being introduced to Hebrew and finding the eclectic and groovy Israeli Jazz scene, I started learning it instantly. I think its a beautiful language with beautiful phrases. I speak Hindi and know some French, Spanish and a bit of Russian. I find that there are overlaps. I hear a word and realizing that there are many meanings to it in the languages I know. <3 It makes me discover civilization and how We are All One People. Also, there is a lot of talented music artists in Israel. The music is consuming my iPod.

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