Is Hebrew more direct than English?

I've heard Hebrew doesn't have the pleasantries English has. Of course it is polite, but it doesn't have those extra layers of formalness English has.

But basically is it a language/culture where people don't talk by inferring things and beating around the bush?

I see in the Bible it doesn't shy away from talking about bodily functions etc.. I do see some euphemisms. Are Hebrew speaking people not so shy about talking about those things?

February 26, 2018


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Israelis are known to be more direct and to the point, but it's more of a stereotypical personality trait rather than a lack of a more formal vocabulary. It's really up to the individual and depends on the setting and circumstance.

You must also make the distinction between modern and biblical Hebrew. The two are almost nothing alike. Understanding biblical Hebrew for some Israelis would be as hard as it would be for a native English speaker to understand Shakespearean English.

(I am referring to mostly Israelis in this post who speak Hebrew natively. This generalization does not apply to Jews in general who might speak the language as a secondary language. Their vocabulary would also be vastly different I assume.)

February 26, 2018

Like reading tyndale's original or the 1611 KJV?

Apparently Israelis have a low context culture. This means they are more likely to be more explicit in what they say.

Makes me think of the Bible where it talks about the word being a two-edged sword dividing the soul and spirit.

February 27, 2018

"low context culture" - that's a really interesting idea. I wonder if you're right. Considering how many speakers of modern Hebrew are immigrants from other disparate places it makes sense in that many might not have a common cultural context before moving to Israel and therefore they would need to be more explicit.

March 10, 2018

Out of curiousity, what layers of formalness does modern English have?

February 27, 2018

I don't think we have as much as other languages. But you will find Americans to be more open, English to have a greater degree of formality, and Australians to use slang.

There are different ways of talking according to the situation. Gentlemen, sir, madam etc are formal terms for people. Contractions are informal. Big words are generally more formal or technical than everyday speech.

February 27, 2018

All these English "formal" words have their Hebrew equivalents. "Ladies and Gentlemen" would be "גבירותיי ורבותיי" (note that in Hebrew, ladies really do come first!). Where in English you'd approach a person as "Sir, ..." in Hebrew you would say "אדוני, ..." (literally, "my lord"). You obviously have various ways of saying please, of saying sorry, and so on - also in Hebrew. So I don't think the issue is the language. It's perhaps the Israeli culture. But even that I'm not sure of - if you talk to American teenagers, you would not hear a lot of those formalities you'd expect to hear from a British gentleman. I'm sure that some Israelis in "high class", uptight, circles also talk this way in Hebrew. But usually, we don't.

March 12, 2018

Note that "אדוני", (Adonai, "My Lord") is often used in Jewish and Christian worship in English as a general term for God.

September 10, 2018

We usually pronounce it ah-doh-NEE (singular) when we address a man, rather than ah-doh-NAI (plural, like el-o-HEEM). So, not the same thing, although they are spelled the same way in Hebrew.

October 27, 2018

Except for very polite people, or in very formal situations, or people who don't have Hebrew as a native language, I have never in my life heard the word "אדוני" spoken in the street to approach someone. It's usually just "סליחה," if you wish to be polite or you just start speaking to them directly. You almost never approach with a title.

September 10, 2018

i see it as more a modern culture quirk

February 28, 2018
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