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I Want to Help Users Learn How to Read Hebrew.

Hi Duolingo Hebrew learns and contributors,

If you do not feel like reading the entire post feel free to skip down to the bullet point summary.

I have been trying to learn Hebrew on an off since it came out; so far it has been extremely challenging (not that I thought it would not be) for some very specific reasons, I am sure I am not the only user who struggles with this issue. The reason is a lack of vowels; because I went to Hebrew school for the majority of my life, I was lucky enough to learn how to read WITH vowels and know that one does not need vowels to read the language.

The lack of vowels can be exceptionally challenging especially because when you have learning disabilities that affect reading and sight word recognition and spelling: which is how this program currently teaches you Hebrew. I know it would be extremely hard to put the vowels in now and to create new branches that address this issue. However, I do hope something like this could one day be added to the tree. Before I propose my idea I would just like to address that I am not looking for a pity party, I am just seeking to help improve the user experience for people like me.

With all this said, I would like to create a class on Memrise (with assistance and guidance of the Duolingo community) that can help people learn how to read Hebrew, and explains the few situational rules. I have been a teacher’s assistant in a Hebrew school since I started working so I know the majority of the rules and can explain them thoroughly. I also have tried a few different ways of learning how to read because of personal experience I can provide input on that as well.

I am sorry this is all over the place, I am currently pressed for time and just wanted to address this issue. Let me know if you want to help in the comments below.


Let me know if you want to help in the comments below.


~I noticed it is not the most user-friendliest program for people with learning disabilities.

~I am requesting help to make a program using Memrise on our free time that helps people learn how to read Hebrew.

~I can explain rules and help develop ways in which would be easiest to learn.

~ If this is done, I hope that program that we create could one day be added to the tree.

~I am sorry this is all over the place, I am currently pressed for time and just wanted to address this issue.

~Let me know if you want to help in the comments below.

August 22, 2016



In my experience in learning Hebrew, because there are no vowels, you are not really reading the words, you are recognizing them from memory. So you either know the word by heart or you dont. Adding vowels wont change much if you don't know the word. And real life Hebrew is vowel less so spending time learning with vowels and then spending time relearning without vowels is counter productive. I think you're better off focusing on memorizing each word, since recognition is really the key here.


That was the rationale - we tried to imitate real-world conditions, meaning, vowel-less environment.


The lack of vowels makes Hebrew a really hard language to learn when you start off. It's like riding a bike without training wheels as a kid.


You're absolutely correct. usually in schools, when kids learn to read and write hebrew, they learn with the Nikkud at first. I think that Duolingo's choice to emit the nikkud is absolutely counter-productive and even lazy.


not sure I agree. With the nikudim, a beginner glances up and down a word/letter to get the vowel, and that makes reading even more complicated than it already is. no nikudim means you have to concentrate on the sound pattern and try to deduce the logic behind pronunciation patterns. A verb in piel in the present tense is always going to start with a "meh" sound, in the past tense it's an [i] sound after the first letter of the shoresh. I find reading Hebrew really hard, but nikudim don't help, in my view, once you know a bit of grammar.


You have a point. Maybe it would have been more beneficial to have an option to turn Nikkud on and off.


Hi Neta-LiBar, can you please elaborate on us being lazy? How did you infer that?


I didn't mean to say that you're lazy, so to speak. sorry if I have insulted you. It was kinda thoughtless because I'm pretty sure everybody works here really hard. I just think that if there was an option to have nikkud turned on and off it would be easier. I thought to infer laziness from the fact that adding nikkud to every single word in the hebrew course would probably be extremely time consuming, and maybe you guys had a deadline or something. I don't know. I apologize for my rudeness.


None taken. There are many problems with nikkud beyond the time factor (adding it can be automated). Bottom line is it's out of our hands and I agree it's not the optimal state, but that's what we currently have.

There is a fine balance between the course's features and the project's time-frame and compromises had been made. We will try to improve the course when we start Tree 2.0.


JBS (Jewish Broadcasting Service has a video series on Learning Hebrew that I think, at least the vowel lesson I learned was very helpful. (I haven't watched the whole series). I think Linguistix Youtube channel is also good for pronunciation.

Hebrew Pronunciation for English Speakers: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfwqVVFqlT1v0tS9hhTg7kL1cUVyO4oFY

JBS/Shalom TV : Learn Hebrew. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqvIGLO0Wqw&list=PLFYVdHvwACGu0b-foW7PDLuMfFAb6dUPV

Learn Hebrew in just 5 minutes a day. For free.