Note: This post for those learning Modern Hebrew as it's spoken in Israel.
Immersion is the best way to learn Hebrew
Immersion is undoubtedly the best way to learn the Hebrew language.
Immersion is extremely effective and efficient for learning a foreign language. No other method or language course can quite compare. Now it's important to point out that living in Israel will not magically make you fluent. You will have to take full advantage of the opportunity immersion provides to benefit from it.
For those who do, there awaits a crash course in the Hebrew language in which your skills grow both wider and deeper.
But immersion isn't all sunshine and rainbows. For the majority of us, getting up and leaving for Israel isn't the most practical or affordable option for learning Hebrew. Does that mean the rest of us who want to learn hebrew are stuck in the mud?
It's completely possible to design your own Hebrew learning program without ever having to step off a plane in Tel Aviv. While it wasn't true a decade or two ago, there are now a plethora of resources and opportunities for learning Hebrew (this is largely due to the internet).
What you'll learn in this post:
Polyglot Benny Lewis shares his thoughts on immersion without traveling. You can check out more about his method for learning languages here.
Even though there are a bunch of resources out there, which ones are best for you will depend on your skill level and reasons for learning the language, not to mention other factors like your budget or time constraints.
In this article we'll do our best to recommend the right resources for each level of Hebrew learning, and provide you with the information you need to make the choice that's right for you.
We'll need to talk a bit about inputs and outputs.
Inputs & Outputs (why they matter)
There are four aspects of language learning: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
Four Parts of Learning Hebrew
Of these four options two are inputs: reading and writing; and two are outputs: writing and speaking. You will need to develop all four skills to become fluent in Hebrew.
But you'll need a different amount of practice for each depending on your level in the language.
At first, as a beginner, you're going to want to work with a lot on inputs. After all it's pretty hard to write or speak Hebrew if you don't know any words or phrases.
This doesn't mean that you neglect outputs at this level. They play a smaller role here then they will in the future.
Hebrew doesn't have the amount of courses and tools that more popular languages have like Spanish or even Japanese. Still as a beginner you will be able to find some notable options.
The important thing at this level is that you're learning the basics of grammar and vocabulary.
Hebrew resources for beginners
5+ minutes a day
Duolingo is the best known language app, and for good reason. It's proven to be an affective way to learn basic grammar and vocabulary in a game like setting. Their Hebrew course features grammar explanations before each lessons. Best of all its free!
From $4+ per month
10+ minutes a day
Hebrewpod101 uses primarily audio lessons in a podcast format. It has flashcards, vocabulary, and word sheets. The podcast is a great way to learn grammar, vocabulary, and work on pronunciation.
Hebrewpod101 isn't as structured as some other Hebrew courses, but it's still a great way to develop listening and reading skills (podcast transcripts are available).
At the intermediate level you should have some Hebrew words and phrases under your belt. This is where you should start to practice outputs a little more in order to help cement the material you're learning, and to start developing your communication skills.
You should also up the difficulty level of you reading and listening activities. You want to always to be just outside of your comfort zone. There's a sort of sweet spot when the use of the language isn't overwhelming but still challenging.
As in an intermediate learner you'll likely encounter plateau periods, where you put in the work but can't see the results (yet). To some extent this phenomena is unavoidable, but you can guard yourself against plateaus by spending more time with Hebrew inputs than you do outputs.
While your level of Hebrew probably isn't high enough to jump blindly into a conversation with just any native speaker, taking a lesson or two a week with a profession Hebrew teacher is a great way to strike the needed balance between inputs and outputs.
A teacher will notice the areas you need to improve on while giving you the guidance to learn and practice new material. Depending on where you live it could be hard to find a local Hebrew teacher, but there are some great online options that work just as well.
Hebrew resources for intermediate learners
30 minutes a day
Pimlseur is a completely audio based course. It's centered around a call-recall-response method that helps you practice responding in Hebrew.
Pimsleur strikes a great balance between inputs and outputs (it's the only audio course I know of that does this). It's also a great tool for improving your Hebrew pronunciation.
$6+ per hour (varies between teachers)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
An intro video from one of Italki's Hebrew teachers.
Italki is an online market place that connects language learners with language teachers for one-on-one language classes via video or audio chat.
You can connect with language speakers from around the world and practice your speaking skills. Italki is one of the only sites that provides lessons with professional Hebrew teachers.
*with a purchase of $20 or more. After your first purchased lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account
The advance level is where Hebrew learning really starts to get fun. By now you should have a solid foundation in the language and be able to use it in normal conversations.
Learning at this level is more about refinement than it is about discovery. Try speaking with any native speakers you can find (online language exchanges are great for this).
Now you can take off your Hebrew training wheels and practice the language any way you see fit. Just remember to always look for some type of feedback (especially from native speakers). Without accurate feedback you'll be treading water instead of increasing your proficiency.
An occasional lesson with a professional teacher can also be a great asset at the advance level. They can help you tackle the finer nuances of the language like idioms or slang, and just like at the intermediate level, they can help you strengthen your weaknesses.
Hebrew resources for advanced leaners
Write posts in Hebrew and post them to Lang-8 to get feedback from native speakers. It's one of the best ways to practice your writing, and it's free! This site is simple to use but very effective.
Speaky is a free online language exchange where you can meet and practice with language learners from over 180 countries. Practice with Hebrew speakers over video, audio, or text chat. Just remember to help them with their English too!
$12.50+ per hour (varies between teacher)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
Verbling is a site similar to Italkli, with one crucial difference: Verbling favors teachers with experience and certification, so their overall quality of teachers is a little higher.
Don't let anyone fool you into thinking there's only one way to learn Hebrew. The truth is that the best way for you to learn why not be the best for another person. It all depends on your individual needs and level in the language.
But also remember that more important than any course, is a love for the language. Don't get so caught up trying to find the right courses and tools that you miss out on enjoying the language for its own sake. Learning a foreign language should never be anything less than an adventure!