After time of researching and learning, I have not only learnt many Hebrew expressions and words, but I have also been able to know more about their culture and roots. Fascinating language, “the language of the Bible” is both ancient and unique. Having survived centuries of history, it was finally revived as a modern language over 150 years ago, and today is spoken in Israel and beyond. Now more than ever I want to visit Israel and learn more about the language. That process of learning here as I mentioned earlier, is not easy, since I don’t hang around native speakers. Neverthless, here is a summary of some cultural aspects of the language that I have learnt:
- Hebrew originally was the language of the Bible, was considered as “dead” for 2000 years as the Jewish people were scattered all over the world, then got revived about 150 years ago. Today the language is spoken by more than 9 million people (with about 250,000 speakers in the States ).
- Hebrew is written from right to left, although their numbers are written from left to right.
- The Academy of the Hebrew Language decides on new words for the Hebrew language. Hebrew has vowels but they mostly aren’t marked – you have to know how each word is pronounced.
Here is the first Committee of the Hebrew Language, Jerusalem 1912 (via harvard University Library)
- Hebrew and Arabic are very very close. No wonder why tradition calls Jewish people and Arabs cousins. Both language are called “Semitic languages”. They might have different scripts, however they do have parallel grammar systems and often similar words (shalom in Hebrew is salam in Arabic. Those words both mean peace and hello). Furthermore, many words in Arabic are used by Hebrew speakers as slang words. Sababa for instance means “great” and mabsut is “satisfied”.
- Many Hebrew words are commonly spoken and used in many languages like English or Spanish or French: Alleluia for instance means “praise God”, we have other words like Satan, Abracadabra, Amen (so be it)…