The Hebrew Course Needs a Redesign
Of any course here on Duolingo, at least when learning from English, the Hebrew is the most difficult by a large degree. And I'm not talking about learning the script - flashcards on tinycards works well for that.
The issue is the loose relationship between how words are pronounced and how they are spelled. Brute force memorization of how words are spelled seems to be the only effective method to learn this. Doing that brute force memorization with flashcards outside of Duolingo is the only way I have ever been able to make progress in the course. This approach or something like it must be incorporated into the Hebrew lessons on Duolingo to make this language more learnable, because that it what it takes for the words to be learnable.
Otherwise, the experience of learning it is not like being taught how to swim by being thrown in the deep end of pool - it's like being taught how to swim by being thrown off a boat in the Southern Ocean during a major storm. No other course on Duolingo is like this. This needs to be fixed.
I'm glad this course doesn't teach Hebrew with the diacritical signs. They distract, I can't type them from my Hebrew keyboard, and native speakers don't use them.
When I was taught Hebrew formally as a child, we were taught to read with the diacritics, and to write in script form without them. I strongly recommend learning how to read Hebrew script and not only Hebrew print if you want to understand natives.
I should also add that there are accents in Hebrew other than the one featured in this course.
Hi LizaKaprize, can you please expand on your comment that "there are dialects of Hebrew"?
Some people learn to pronounce letters differently. For example, the word "שבת" can be pronounced as either "Shabbat" or "Shabbos." This is the first example that comes to mind when I think of different "dialects." Mazzorano, I hope I answered your question and was able to explain :)
I wouldn't say that's a dialect, it's just a change in pronunciation which relates only to Biblical and Liturgical Hebrew. Even Ashkenazim who use sav and komotz etc. still speak Modern Hebrew.
Of any course here on Duolingo, at least when learning from English, the Hebrew is the most difficult by a large degree.
I don't think this is even close to being true. For example, I'm trying to work through the Chinese course now by trying to actually learn the tones and get them right. The lack of instruction on tones is kinda crazy and makes it multitudes harder than not having nikud in the Hebrew course. Learning to just read or recognize thousands of Chinese character is simply not enough to even have a basic conversation. The Vietnamese course is also extremely poorly taught and suffers from a lack of further contributor input. There are many neglected courses out there on Duolingo that are more difficult than Hebrew.
Say what you want about the Hebrew course (yes it does have a steep learning curve at the beginning) but the contributors are active and were there to answer most of my forum questions. And Hebrew is a largely logical language so once you get past that initial plateau in the course you pick up a lot more on review.
I agree. Good example. I think the learning curve isn't that bad. It's different, but by no means the most difficult.
In Israel children first learn to read with nikkud. This helps them to have a genral "feel" of how words should be written. I think that this approach can also help here, to start the course with nikkud, and at somepoint ommiting it. Just notice that this is the opposite action from the Israeli children, first to learn how to read in order to pronounce words correctly, but I believe that it will have a similar effect (like to start riding bicycle with training wheels).
I do agree with LizaKapriza that you won't type nikkud at any case. I don't think that anyone really knows how to do it with the keyboard, and even if we did learn that, there are many nikkud signs that basically means the same, so for example, if we need to write an "a" vowel, there are two possible signs (and maybe more, I don't even remember all the nikkud).
I do recommend to have nikkud when you need to translate to English, but not vice versa (it will even be an advantage that you will know the words with and without the nikkud). The question is if the program has an interface to make the Hebrew-English and the English-Hebrew differ by this aspect.
I was also thinking more along lines of showing nikkud rather than requiring users to type them in. In any case, duolingo lets me get away with not typing in accents in french and spanish too, so they should be able to allow the typing of nikkud optional. It would be great if they could show them for the earlier crown levels (word bank is an option for these level anyways) and then maybe remove them at level four or five.
I like seeing them when the speaking talks so fast and it's a new word to be sure I'm getting the correct pronunciation.
All these problems would be solved if they added nikkud to the course. Hebrew spelling is really phonetic and regular, but if you don't know the nikkud you have to memorize. I think the Hebrew course is actually really well structured, and the tips and notes are great, but I agree you need to use extra resources. I am not sure it is the best course for absolute beginners. I already knew Hebrew basics and I struggled too before I found other sources. The 'Duolingo Hebrew' Memrise course is a great support though (though it does feel like memorization), I use that and Drops (really fun) to learn vocab and then the grammar with Duolingo. Mango languages also has a Hebrew course with a different approach which I think might be better introduction for absolute beginners, because Duolingo does sort of throw you straight into the deep end.
Thankyou for replying to my comment. I know it must be hard trying to please so many different people. I think if you could introduce nikkud and then wean it off, that might help people. The problem is with no nikkud and without full audio, it is hard to know how to pronounce words.. so I have to learn the pronouncication separately on Memrise (which I really appreciate that you guys created a Memrise course too) I think if the course had full audio maybe the lack of nikkud would not be such a problem, but with no nikkud and no full audio.. I can see it leading to some bad habits. I think it is great that you are working on a new more beginner friendly version though.. and really appreciate all the work you guys are doing and that you are listening to feedback. I am also sorry if I came across as over critical, because I do know you guys are volunteers with real lives. Thankyou for all your hard work.
The (current) plan is to record audio for all individual words AND all sentences, but DL won't accept recording cycles, we have only one shot at this so we must plan this carefully. We aim at creating this automatic association of the audio and the word.
שלום. הצעה בשבילכם אם היא אפשרית מבחינת זכויות יוצרים. במילון האינטרנטי העברי עברי "מילוג" יש הקלטות אודיו של הרבה מאוד מילים, כולל ביטויים שלמים, כשהמילים תמיד מבוטאות נכון. אולי יהיה אפשרי במקום שתקליטו את כל המילים שתשמשו במקור הזה או דומה לו (כמובן אם יתאפשר מבחינת זכויות יוצרים)?
הצעה מעניינת. קודם כל, כן, יש כאן עניין של זכויות יוצרים אז לא נוכל להשתמש בהקלטות האלו. זה לא אומר שלא נוכל להשתמש באותן ההקלטות מאותו האולפן... צריך רק לראות אם דואולינגו יפתחו את הכיס.
I want to point out also that the sound recordings are too fast and it's nearly impossible to recognize even the consonants (ת,ד,ה,ח), let alone the vowels, and it's harder especially when the female reader dictates.
I agree, at first we were happy with our voice actors but we quickly realized it's only due to the fact we are native speakers. Many people find them difficult to understand - I'm working on a different solution which I'll pitch to the other team members next week.
It wouldn't be a problem if we could control the speed of the speaker but it's not an option is it?
No, not an option unfortunately. The sound will most likely become mechanical.
Hi, all I have a previous knowledge of Hebrew (I lived in Israel and was fluent) This Hebrew course in my opinion is not suitable for a beginner, however it is an excellent course. I am enjoying it immensely as it allows me to review and restore my Hebrew after many years. Your criticism is mainly due to the fact that they do not teach you the rules of nikkud..I also agree it is a miss. This course is only good for someone who already knows how to read and write in Hebrew.
Hebrew requires developing visual memory and associative thinking, if you are not able to memorize literally the consonant roots of the words and quickly associate them with the sounds that are attached to them and to guess the meaning of the word.. if you do not learn it ,you will not be able to learn this very unique language.. I suggest using sources outside Duolingo..maybe enroll into a course..When they teach you in a course (at least that is the way it was when i took a course in an ulpan in Israel) they use different methods to explain nikkud and it comes to you easily over period of time.
Agreed! This Hebrew course is definately much more suited to those who have already aquired at least some basic knowledge and a solid foundation in reading, writing and pronounciation. As a refresher or an advanced beginner course it is really good.
I agree that it's a steep learning curve, but as a person that needs to learn it asap I've come to appreciate it. I'm sure a person that wants to learn it for fun alone must be annoyed, but I can't complain. With that said learning it in conjunction with that memrise page other people have talked about really has been helping me the last couple weeks.
I’m learning Hebrew from scratch and compared to the other duolingo courses, I find the Hebrew course the hardest. I’ve learned Arabic and Farsi before, so I thought I’m quite familiar with another not-Latin alphabet and another Semitic language. Nevertheless, Duolingo-Hebrew is the most challenging adventure so far. From my opinion, there are several reasons: 1. I’m still struggling with the א and the ו and their order/pronunciation in the words 2. There are not so many lexical similarities with Arabic words so far (which I have anticipated falsely) 3. Some sentences are without an audio —> I consider listening as a crucial component of language learning. So pronunciation is a really big issue 4. The sheer load of some topics (25 different adjectives, verbs etc.) at once make it a hard task to memorise the words. Even though, I pick the single words and pick them into different contexts, not all of them stick in the long-term memory.
Yet, I’ll continue with my slow progress, I started it to combine with the corresponding Memrise course and maybe I’ll look for some additional resources. I’m not aiming at a high-level fluency, but I won’t complain if I manage somehow. Keep it all going, the process alone is worth it, especially with this wonderful language in a challenging course!
P.S. thanks a lot for the contributors, you did a really fine job and I’m glad that there will be some reconstruction of the course.
Marc, are you using the Tips and Notes? It's not optional if you want to grasp grammatical structures etc.
Marc if you can afford it there are slower programs that might be easier for you such as rosettastone and some other online programs, I wouldn't be able to learn so much at once as a complete beginner either using this format, this is likely better for people with some background in Hebrew as it is a lot all at once.
I also have found this to be true. In addition to this it seems to me that there is more audio available on the other courses in Duolingo. Maybe it's improved now, but some Hebrew sentences didn't have audio at all. And then when I'm selecting Hebrew words from the word bank, there is also no audio attached to the words. When I come across a sentence with audio, I make sure I play it several times so that I at least get some practice in hearing the language. It was only through Tinycards and Memrise that I've gotten as far as I have. I would like to get back to it but my motivation is lacking because of these issues.
Just wanted to mention that I'm doing better in Hebrew now. Not sure if I just had a hump to get over, or what it was. I had quit some time ago, but recently came back to it when my father-in-law offered to take me to Israel. Suddenly I found some motivation! I think sticking to one lesson until I reach level 5 is helping. I've become very familiar with those first few basic words, which gives me some encouragement. It's still difficult, but I'm making progress!
Hi Secena1, I'm Mazzorano, one of the contributors for the Hebrew course and a forum mod. I'd like to address some of the issues you have raised.
First, I totally agree. The current Hebrew course has a sharp (perhaps too sharp) learning curve and this needs to be addressed. In fact, it is already being addressed, as we have started designing and working on a new tree. Note, not a revamped, improved tree, but a whole new tree altogether. In minimum, the first quarter of the tree is to be totally redesigned.
Secondly, I'd like to address the issue with nikkud. It will never be a part of the course, for the simple reason that it is not used in Modern Hebrew. We are however considering to introduce it during the first few stages and gradually wean off it. However, there are major technical difficulties in doing so, and we have to consult with the DL team to see whether this is plausible in the Incubator (without getting into too many details.) The incubator has improved over the last couple of years and now has more features which were inaccessible when we built the course. We aim at using whatever the Incubator has to offer.
Lastly, we have finally reached the stage that all our contributors, airlibre and AviahMorag are on the same page and working productively and coherently together. Our communication has vastly improved, despite being in 3 different time-zones and we are committed to deliver a high quality course.
I hope this message reassures you - we try and be active in the forum, we listen, we take notes and we make the appropriate amendments when needed. Having said that, please be patient, we all have busy lives which we are trying to balance alongside maintaining existing, and creating new material.
We appreciate any feedback, as long as it is delivered in a constructive manner. Thank you.
I just would like to say a huge thank you for the existing course and for the putting so much hard work into now redesigning the tree , I was amazed to read that you and other contributors are doing it ,more so that you all are in different parts of the world.. Just one huge thank you and lots of appreciation..!!!
Just a disclaimer - we are in early stages of design, meaning we are logically trying to structure the tree so it makes more sense and easier for the total beginner. It will take some time. Thank you nevertheless.
Of course , i fully understand this !
תודה רבה לכם באמת מכול הלב,אתם אנשים מאוד מאוחדים,שיהי לכם בהצלחה ובמזל טוב!:-)))
Mazzorano, if you're one of the contributors to the Hebrew tree: Has the Hebrew team ever thought of doing Hebrew stories, or is that not up to you? I've been taking French for a while, and I found that the French stories were one of the most effective ways for me to really understand the flow of French, its syntax, and its slang. Knowing how much the French stories have helped me, I think it would be incredibly beneficial to myself and other Hebrew learners to also have Hebrew stories.
OK, so as promised, I looked into it. It seems to be more complicated than I first thought. It's not totally off the table, but won't happen in conjunction with working on the new tree.
Thanks so much for all you do Mazzorano! Todah Rabah Mo'ad and I am enjoying this program as I can't afford a real life teacher and feel it's better than nothing, if you ever need a guinea pig student to test Ivrit on I'm happy to volunteer!
I don't understand why you guys insist on not having nikkud. The explanation that Modern Hebrew doesn't use nikkud is completely wrong. Even Israeli children learn with nikkud and they already know the language! We are trying to learn the language from scratch with poor recordings, no nikkud and your responses are always - «I read without nikkud in Israel so you have to do the same. Deal with it». We are learners, not fluent speakers like you. We need to learn to walk before we can run. We need a good pronunciation guide to learn the basics before we can try reading a newspaper. If you want this course to be successful give us nikkud or romanization.
Mazzorano I was relatively happy with this course but now I can't advance as I do not have access to typing in Hebrew on my chromebook. I can't figure out how to get help with this so thought I'd ask you, when I check "skip" the program won't let me skip, I would like to demo my understanding of the Hebrew without having to type it but it won't let me, I am stuck and can't advance in the Numbers 2 and also in Modals, if you can advise me I'd be very happy todah!!
The issue is when in the middle of a level or activity I am expected to type in both Hebrew and English and I can't skip when asked to input Hebrew or given a Hebrew keyboard, but with English I am given a choice. It is so frustrating I was able to skip in earlier lessons but now I can't advance. I do not need to write in Hebrew but was able to improve my comprehension and demonstration understanding until today. I did report not being able to skip the writing in Hebrew part as a bug as I have a chromebook, but think it's unfair I suddenly have to change my language to Hebrew for my entire laptop just to be able to advance now and will have to quit and keep changing the language after i am done with a lesson? I will look into it but it seems a big hassle when all I want is to just skip the Hebrew typing and keep going.
I just found a way to advance, I can copy the answer with my laptop by cutting and pasting it to the answer section it's the only thing I can do with my chromebook, I tried adding Hebrew but it wasn't compatible with duolingo's program.
I agree with most of the criticism of the Hebrew DL. The first improvement I would make is an option to slow the voice to a word at a time, like you can in the Spanish DL. I find it hard to understand the fast speach of the reader and there is no way to slow it down. Even the Google iPhone voice recognition cannot decipher some of the speach. Also get rid of the tongue twisters and stupid sentences like "ducks teach the cats" and stuff like that, which may be fun for the readers but annoying to learners.
I doing Spanish Italian french Portuguese and Hebrew. I would like an audio that slows up the Hebrew so I can distinguish the word and be able to correctly pronounce. That would be a great help
Up to now I didn‘t get very far. what would be very helpful for me as a beginner:
pronounciation for every new word
ponounciation of the consonants (vowels could be learned by interpreting the orthography of the new words)
That the course is a little more difficult than others could be caused by the „distance“ between western and eastern languages Thanks anyway for this great opportunity
I agree. It's not so much the lack of the nikkud itself as the difficulty of learning how to pronounce modern Hebrew in a context where the speakers/recordings are too fast (male) or too soft (female)--or both--and it's quite hard to absorb the vocabulary and grammar if you don't know how words sound
I also find that the print is really tiny, especially on my iphone. It looks like it's written in 8 pt. font! Which is small even by English standards! And because Hebrew itself is rather blocky, it's already difficult to discern one letter from another at first (particularly vav). I have to squint.
I know nothing about iOS, but check whether you have the option to increase the font for specific apps. That's not a DL issue, it should be a setting on your phone. Or swap to Android!
Agree with you that it's often hard to read. And after you submit your answer it should not dim your font so you can compare your answer with the correct one. Also it's not just the size of the font, but the font appears in gray rather than black. It's just not dark enough.
Mazzorano, I have been away from Duolingo for a year, and when I came back, I found the new discussion headings/answers, that are now being typed in blue instead of black, have all the Hebrew words in the reverse order. I asked about it in a couple of discussion threads and turned in a bug report, but the only person who got back to me said that she didn't have the problem. Do you know what I'm talking about and how the problem can be fixed? I am using a Windows 10 PC now and my browser is Microsoft Edge 17. Is anyone else on this thread experiencing this problem?
I agree that compared to Duolingo Spanish, the Hebrew is not nearly as good. I don't want to pay until they improve the Hebrew course. I can only follow because I've had some Hebrew instruction in the past and I have to use the voice recognition of the iPhone Google Translate to help decipher some of the rapidly spoken Hebrew.
I appreciate your comments. When the course first came out, I gave it a try and found it frustratingly impossible. It wasn't designed for a beginner to learn anything, in my opinion. Unfortunate, as I think Hebrew could be fun to learn.
I had Hebrew language courses in school for years before I decided to go further with Hebrew on Duolingo. Because of my learning background, when I started on Duolingo, I found the course slow and demotivating- until I found the skip button. I agree with you that it was not designed for a beginner- there needs to be some balance between "Easy" and "Hard" for the beginner levels (so that people starting from scratch can have an easier time starting to learn and so people who already know some Hebrew can continue to work at a higher level). In my opinion, Hebrew is a very fun language, so I hope the Hebrew tree gets fixed and you can try again :) :) Additionally, if it's just stuff like the alphabet and the writing direction (right to left) that's hard, there's always flashcards on Tinycards that are very useful
As a native Hebrew speaker, who took the course for "fun," I must agree. It is almost impossible to learn Hebrew with Duo, unlike other languages. This Hebrew course should be re-written.
I think that's a tad on the harsh side Boaz. Yes, there are deficiencies which we are aware of but fact being, many individuals did find it useful and did progress their Hebrew.
I am not a native speaker. To be sure, I took Hebrew before, but that was 30 years ago and I forgot most of it. I am finding it extremely helpful, I'm actually pretty sure I not only relearned a lot, but also more than what I knew before. I can see that if you have to start with he alphabet it would be more difficult, but not impossible though. When I was a teenager there were hardly any resources and I learned the Hebrew alphabet the Rosetta Stone way (using Yiddish and Hebrew songtexts both in Hebrew and Latin script). So, anyone who is willing to put in some work can do it, in these internet times even more easily than when I was young. Learning a new language simply involves work.
I agree. This course needs to be redesigned. Partly this is a general fault of Duolingo, which prefers to deal with grammar and pronunciation points implicitly rather than making them a focus, but by far the biggest obstacle for me (as others have said) is the lack of materials to directly help with pronunciation (and that's not the same as simply learning characters) which includes a distinct lack of audio in many lessons. That's crucial if you are not going to use nikud: it's basically impossible for a beginner to work out even roughly how to pronounce a new word with no nikud and no audio and there are lots of examples of words introduced with picture clues or in writing. I'd agree with others that the voices are not helpful for foreign beginners either. They are realistic native voices, but learners need clarity above all.
I agree. Unlike in the Spanish course the voice cannot be slowed down. For this and other reasons I switched to Mango which does not require typing and have not looked back.