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Rabbi Avraham Fischer is a Hebrew teacher for Tomorrow’s Genius - a new and exciting online tutoring program.
  Perfecting Your Hebrew and Avoiding Common Mistakes

The excellent article below was originally written for Olim teenagers taking the Hebrew language Bagrut exam (the final national exam), and was adapted especially for Engheb.Com - as it has many useful points that other Hebrew learners can benefit from. It lists some common mistakes in Hebrew and gives invaluable tips on how to polish your Hebrew and express yourself properly. If you think it's too early for you to engage in finer details – try to just choose one aspect, and come back for more as you progress in your Hebrew learning journey.

Mastering the Hebrew language can be difficult, not only for olim chadashim, but even for native Israelis (Just ask them!), so, it’s helpful to remember why we should study Hebrew hard. For me, it’s because by studying Hebrew, and using it correctly in my daily life, I am playing a role in reviving and modernizing an ancient language.

I feel proud that Israel has the most successful language revival project in the world. Think of this: for thousands of years, Hebrew was not an everyday language. It didn’t disappear, but it was not used in common conversation, business or entertainment. Other ancient languages would have vanished long ago (and many did!). Instead, Hebrew is now used in every form of modern communication, from popular music, sports and social media, to newspapers and magazines. This revolution happened because people cared enough about Hebrew to keep it dynamic and fresh, as well as accurate and dependable.

Here’s another reason to get excited about Hebrew: The most popular book in the world is the Bible. But most people have to read the Bible in translation. That’s why it’s also the world’s most translated book. But you can read the Bible in its original language. And then you can talk (or Facebook, or text) in Hebrew with your friends about any topic: school, or clothing, or your pets, or your vacation, or a movie you’ve just seen.

There is no other country in the world where Hebrew is the main language. That’s why Israelis feel a responsibility to keep Hebrew up-to-date. That’s why they want everyone to know how to use it correctly and effectively. That’s why Hebrew is a compulsory subject in the final school exams in Israel.

Here are a few tips for you to perfect your Hebrew:

• Read Hebrew for pleasure
Students say you can’t study for reading comprehensions (because the selections are “unseen”), but, if you read Hebrew for pleasure, you can practice the sorts of skills that are needed for it. It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you are paying attention to the use of Hebrew. Try making up a few questions you would ask about what you’ve read, and how you would answer them.

• Use a Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary
Practice the skill of using the Even-Shoshan Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary. Pick words from your “Hebrew reading for pleasure,” starting with easier words, so you will know what to expect. Then look up harder words. Pay attention to the kind of information the dictionary provides, such as plural forms, correct vowels and different types of definitions.

• Get numbers straight
There’s no getting around it: Hebrew numbers have a lot of strange rules, but you need to know them. Here are some pointers to help you avoid common mistakes:

1. Unlike just about everywhere else in the Hebrew language, masculine numbers end in 'a': Shlosha, arba’a, chamisha, shisha, shiv'a are masculine, while shalosh, arba, chamesh, shesh, sheva are feminine. Shmona is masculine, shmoneh is feminine.
2. Dates use masculine numbers. Think of Tish'a BeAv and Asara BeTevet. The same is true of non-Hebrew (lo’azi) dates: the Fourth of July would be Arba’a BeYuli.
3. Numbers used for identification are feminine. For example: bus lines (kav tesha), phone numbers (shesh-chamesh-shtayim-...) and addresses (Rechov Sokolov achat).

• Make sure to pronounce words correctly
Pay close attention to the correct pronunciation of words. Look closely at texts with vowels. Here are a few common pronunciation mistakes that even native Israelis sometimes make:
     English Wrong Right
     Sleeping Yoshen, yoshenet, yoshnim, yoshnot Yashen, yeshena, yeshenim, yeshenot
     Growing Godel Gadel
     Was able Yachalti, yachalta... Yacholti, yacholta...
     Know (i.e. be familiar with) Mekir . . . Makir . . .
     To travel Lisso’a Linso’a
     You (plural, as in "love you [all]") Ot’chem Et’chem
     Spill, pour Shopech Shofech
     I will tell Ani yagid Ani agid

• Review verbs
It’s a good idea to practice the different forms of the verbs. To keep it from being boring, try drilling yourself with just one or two verbs at a time. Take examples from your “Hebrew reading for pleasure”.

Here are some verb forms that can be tricky at times:

1. Hitpa’el with reversal of letters, like Lehistader (to get along); lehishtamesh (to use); lehitztaref (to join); lehizdarez (to hurry).
2. Same Shoresh, different binyan = different meaning. like ligdol (to grow, as in “I grew up in New York”); legaddel (to raise, as in “I raised this dog from a puppy”); lehagdil (to enlarge, as in “Please enlarge this picture”).

>>>> Tenses:
     Past Tense Present tense Future tense
     Pa'al Safarti, safarta... (counted) Sofer, soferet... (count) Espor, tispor... (will count)
     Pi’el Sipparti, sipparta... (told) Mesapper, mesapperet... (tells) Asapper, tesapper... (will tell)
     Hif’il Hirgashti, hirgashta... (felt) Margish, margisha... (feels) Argish, targish... (will feel)
     Hitpa’el Hitragashti/ta... (got excited) Mitragesh, mitrageshet... (excited) Etragesh, titragesh... (will get...)
     Nif’al Nichnasti, nichnasta... (entered) Nichnas, nichnesetet... (enters) Ekkanes, tikkanes... (will enter)
     Pu’al Supparti, supparta... (was told) Mesuppar, mesupperet... (is told) Asuppar, tesuppar... (will be told)
     Huf’al Huzmanti/ta... (was invited) Muzman, muzmenet... (is invited) Uzman, tuzman... (will be invited)

I hope now you are excited about Hebrew, too. So, let’s get into the spirit!

Rabbi Avraham Fischer

Tomorrow’s Genius combines cutting edge technology and talented educators to create a variety of online learning options for Israeli students of all ages. We know that learning a new language is perhaps the most challenging part of the Aliyah process. Our programs can help ease your difficulties and can prepare you for life here in Israel. Our platform offers one-on-one sessions with bi-lingual teachers in almost all academic subjects. If you are a Hebrew beginner, take advantage of this special offer and work with a Tomorrow’s Genius online Hebrew teacher. We also offer instruction and help in other subjects such as Judaic Studies, Math, History, Science, and more. Our teachers are standing by every day between 4PM and 10PM to answer your questions. Get started today!

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