Modern Hebrew is a language connected to the history and experiences of the Jewish people. While modern Hebrew is different in certain respects to the language of the Hebrew Bible, modern Hebrew still connects you to a language that has been used since Biblical times. As a native English speaker, you may find that there are some difficulties associated with learning this beautiful language simply because of how different it is from modern English. Before you can begin studying Hebrew, you need to know a little about the language you will be learning. Today, 6 million people speak the Hebrew language, with most of these people living in Israel. The language almost completely disappeared in everyday speech between the ninth and nineteenth centuries due to lack of use.
While the language was used by Jews during prayer and Torah study, it was not commonly spoken outside of the home and synagogue. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Zionists worked to restore the language, making modern Hebrew the official language of the newly formed State of Israel. Today, modern Hebrew somewhat resembles the Biblical variety, with subtle changes to allow the language to work in today's society. Learning Hebrew usually starts with learning the Hebrew alphabet. The modern Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters, all of which are consonants. When vowels need to be represented, which is rarely done in written Hebrew, they are represented by dots and dashes known as nikkud.
There is no upper or lower case to the letters, but a few of them have a different form when they come at the end of a word. People who are learning Hebrew often struggle with the fact that the language is written from right to left, rather than from left to right. The lack of written vowels poses problems for many new learners.
As with most languages, the best way to learn modern Hebrew is to both study the grammar and syntax of the language and to practice speaking and listening to the language being spoken. You can study grammar until you know everything perfectly, but if you do not learn how to properly pronounce the language, you will not be able to function in a situation where you are required to speak the language. Simply studying Hebrew grammar is not enough.
You need the conversational component as well. In fact, the conversational component of learning Hebrew is almost more important than learning the language's grammar, as most situations where you will need to know the language will require you to speak or understand it. As you are looking for something to help you reach your goal of learning Hebrew, look for a course that will give you the chance to speak Hebrew and listen to it being spoken. This should be combined with some grammatical instruction, but immersion into the spoken language is one of the best ways to learn a language like modern Hebrew. Once you can speak the language with some confidence, it is far easier to learn how to read and write it as well.
Jacob Lumbroso writes articles on history, foreign cultures, and Judaism. For more information on learning Biblical Hebrew visit http://www.judaicaquest.com