Hebrew Innovations

by: Zev Bar-Lev

Hebrew Innovations at languagebazaar.com
Hebrew Today is a seven-level program in Hebrew language for supplementary schools. It is a turnkey system, using specific sets of study-steps for each lesson. If the teacher takes the students through these steps rigorously for the minimum time specified, the resulting skills are guaranteed. It uses a uniquely powerful “visual oral” method, in which cute visual cues (“glyphs”) act as triggers to impart open-ended speaking abilities. Students of all ages and abilities immediately begin to speak “Confidently Continuously Comprehensibly and Creatively (imaginatively), role-playing in animal stories that they themselves create spontaneously in “real time.” That is, they speak fluently with a small, carefully chosen basic vocabulary. The program is carefully paced, and does require that students and teachers follow the study-steps completely. Because of its focus on role-playing and imaginative speaking, the program is fun, partly also because of the “fluency” it imparts so quickly, in Hebrew speaking and reading comprehension. At all levels, students learn blessings and prayers, which they not only sing easily, but also know the meanings of, through special exercises.
Two kinds of special techniques are used to make learning effective as well as fun!

  1. Verbal associations, like “if you see a house, buy it!” to teach that Hebrew Bayyit means house; and
  2. Visual associations, called “glyphs,” such as 3+3 fingers (illustrated)
 six fingers

Sheen + SHeen


This glyph resembles the Hebrew spelling of SHesh ‘six.’ The two techniques by-pass traditional bah-bah goo-goo methods (as in the Yiddish song “afn Pripichik”) in which students parrot meaninglessly…and often simply never get to meaning. So, many Jews know blessings like the “motzi” just as well as their own telephone number, but don’t know the meaning of the word matzo, guessing (if forced) ‘bread’ or ‘thanks.’. Motzi means ‘brings out,’ and two instances of bringing out are central to Judaism.
“Magic letters” is a set of handouts, displaying Hebrew letters such as Sheen with their meanings (Sheen = ‘peace & quiet, orderliness’), along with Hebrew (& English) words and Hebrew verses (from Bible and prayerbook) using them. Each handout gives five minutes of independent discussion and study.
for Sheen: English:
Shelter, Sheriff, Shirt, Shoe.
Hebrew: Shalom, Shtoq, SHma
‘SHelter/peace, SHut-up, [SHut-up &] listen/hear!
as in SHma yiSra’el…!
These “Magic Letters” are apparently language- universal, as the English examples suggest. Clothing-words use Sh in Russian as in English, like SHinel’ ‘overcoat.’ The complete “Global Alphabet” is explained at languagebazaar.com, with examples from many languages.
Beyond the 23 Key-letters as a coherent “Map” of the concepts behind human language and thought, it is helpful that the Key-letters are transparent. Their shapes have evolved to reflect their meanings. So tall L reflects the meaning Lift; “Catcher C” (& Hebrew Kaf) means Collect, Contain; and Hebrew Sheen looks like a SH-mouth (a smile crossed by a finger).

 sh! sh! Sh!

The mysterious history of these shapes and meanings is both a challenge and a profound delight to study. Three decades of successful teaching recommend it, even though some teachers and students prefer the “good old methods”—whether or not they excite anyone, much less work.
Hebrew Today and my other books are available at Cognella Academic Press on line.