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Colloquial Hebrew (Colloquial Series) Paperback – 30 May 2007
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""Altogether an excellent contribution to the study of Hebrew..""- Risa Domb, Director of the Centre for Modern Hebrew Studies, University of Cambridge
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After the first unit, where you're introduced to basics of the language, i.e. the alphabet and the sounds, you immediately start to immerse yourself into the language. The vocabulary that is taught is varied, extremely well-chosen and useful, and the grammar is introduced gradually but consistently. (You may also want to consider having a look at Modern Hebrew: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars), which I also recommend as an add-on, although the course itself is sufficient; I also suggest considering 501 Hebrew Verbs (Barron's Foreign Language Guides) (Barron's 501 Hebrew Verbs)).
It may be true that the course is "fast on speech and slow on grammar" - the past, for instance, isn't taught before unit 9. But be sure that by the end of the course you will have tackled every important aspect of the Hebrew grammar, including all of the tenses. My impression is that up to unit 8 included, you're given the time to learn and adjust to the basic grammatical structures while widening your vocabulary, then starting with unit 9 it becomes much more fast-paced and intense, with much longer units than the previous ones (bear in mind the the book has got 14 units in total).
The recordings are excellent. The only speaker I've got a problem with is the one who plays the character of Maya. She speaks so fast you'd think she's doing it on purpose! But I'm sure that's going to prove useful eventually.
Highly recommended to anyone looking for a well-structured and fun way of acquiring a solid grounding in Modern Hebrew.
+ I like how contemporary it is, the dialoges focus on modern life and do not feel stilted or outdated.
+ The use of both the Hebrew and the Roman alphabet is a nice way to allow people to decide whether to take a more communicative approach and mainly use transliterations or to advance more slowly and learn Hebrew writing as well.
- It is not particularly extensive. Compared to many other Colloquial courses (Czech, Italian and Icelandic spring to mind), you'll finish this course with a rather limited vocabulary.
- The author commits the cardinal mistake of often using words you haven't learned yet in exercises. After you've tried several times to read the Hebrew, tried to identify it and to translate it, it's rather frustrating to discover that - once again - the reason you didn't understand is that the author has not bothered to include the word. This happens in every lesson of the course, often there several such words in each exercise.
- The grammar explanations are rather extensive, and that is great, but not well organised. The course makes Hebrew grammar seems more confusing than it is.
For a much more extensive course, but one which might be less suited for total beginners, I would recommend The Routledge Introductory Course in Modern Hebrew. While that course also has some problems (see my review of it), it is far more extensive than this course and a good way to continue your studies of Hebrew after finishing this book.
The Routledge Introductory Course in Modern Hebrew
This course uses a realistic scenario with recurring characters to present all the language a learner needs in a way that enables rapid uptake and confident use. It's irrelevant whether one visits a country on business like the character Peter or not: his experience has been used effectively to enable us to learn what anyone needs to know to speak the language well. As someone who has lived in Israel, I feel that the aspects of Israeli culture that are conveyed in the course and interactions between the characters are authentic.
Although some of the grammar (e.g. verb tenses) is introduced quite late, my personal feeling is that if one is following the course at the speed the authors intend (which is also more conducive to remaining motivated and learning effectively, as if you go too slowly you risk forgetting stuff before you move on!), it's not going to be long before you get to it.
I've been extremely satisfied with this course.
Two weak points to be corrected in the next edition: there are a number of typos - accents appear on a word in one place but not in another, leaving the learner to check a dictionary to be sure of where the emphasis should be.
And secondly, the big negative point is the lack of an English>Hebrew glossary. This is a **major** omission on the part of the publisher, which markets all its courses as having glossaries in both directions (see their blurb for each of their publications). This has been a significant annoyance.
Also, the Hebrew>English glossary is incomplete: many of the words appearing in the course are not there, including basic vocabulary such as the words for "always", "never", and "no one" (which all appear in the course). I am a firm believer that the glossary in language courses for self-study should be comprehensive, containing all the words in the course.
However, because all serious language learners should also invest in a dictionary, I don't think this undermines the otherwise excellent methodology of this course, which is the most important aspect.
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