These are our own resources to learn Hebrew colloquially online, from courses, to vocabulary lists, to verb conjugation tables and pronunciation guides.
There are plenty of resources around for learning classical Hebrew. But surprisingly, there are relatively few good resources online for learning spoken Hebrew.
One of the most important things for any language learner is a learner’s dictionary app. There are great dictionaries for many languages. Unfortunately, I haven’t found one for Hebrew. This is a real setback!
I’ve been working on a new experiment in 80/20 learning where I try to learn ten sentences a day and record myself saying them. Results are good so far and I’ll record a final video when I’m done. (Update: done!)
These are the best resources I’ve found around the web and app stores to learn Hebrew, and what I used to learn what I did. Most of them are free (and free ones take you quite far).
TeachMeHebrew — Many Words and Phrases
I really like this website. One of the best free resources to learn Hebrew online!
TeachMeHebrew is a website put together by “Gorgeous Moe”. He/She (I don’t know) has put a fairly basic website together that is mostly just lists of phrases and words.
But despite being very Web 1.0, it remains one of the most useful spoken Hebrew resources on the internet. This is because:
- It has transliteration. Colloquial Hebrew not only doesn’t show short vowels, it doesn’t even have enough consonants. What kind of alphabet uses the same letter for “B” and “V”? There are several double-ups like this. So transliteration is critical for the learner.
- It has cool phrases lists. They’re really useful. Also, Moe (or Gorgeous?) says you can email in to ask for new phrases, and you will get a response and they’ll go up on the website!
- There’s a word list that you can kind of use as a dictionary. It’s actually just a list of words, organised by frequency you see them in written texts (not necessarily spoken ones). But I find it really useful to cross-reference words I get out of other lists.
Also, the author of the website asks that you send them emails for new sentences, which they add. It’s nice to find a human on the other side of a website.
Pealim Dictionary and Verb Conjugator
If you want to learn Hebrew, you have to learn how to conjugate the verbs, and how words relate to each other.
Pealim (which means “verbs” in Hebrew) is another free Hebrew learning resource, one I discovered when trying to figure out how to conjugate a verb.
I found by accident that it has quite a good dictionary, too!
Pealim very easy to use. You type in the verb you want (in English or in Hebrew), and it gives you a full conjugation table. If you’re lucky you might even get a sample sentence!
Rather than search in Pealim, I often use Google to look up a word and just type “pealim” at the end of the search phrase. E.g. “to love pealim”.
An update for 2022: In the past, Google didn’t have text to speech pronunciation, so I recommended Bing. But now they both work… so I prefer Google Translate.
I find Google Translate to be a really effective translator for even simple, colloquial phrases. I learn one sentences at a time, listen to how it sounds, and create an audio flashcard (using AwesomeTTS).
Text to speech is very important in Hebrew. Sometimes you don’t know if a letter is pronounced as a vowel or a consonant. And many consonants can take multiple forms (unless you get all the pronunciation marks). The short vowels aren’t written in Hebrew.
Google also has a nice character recognition feature. So if you’re in the shop and can’t figure out what the difference between types of milk are you have to use Google Translate (or a Hebrew keyboard of course).
If I’m ever unsure of pronunciation of a word, I double-check it with Pealim, another one of my favourite resources.
Google still doesn’t have transliteration (e.g. “?למה אין לו את זה” –> “lama ayn lo et ze?”), but I find that not very useful in most languages, anyway. It’s just sometimes convenient to clear up things you don’t hear correctly or when you don’t have headphones.
I’ve tried a lot of language learning books, and I keep coming back to the Routledge Colloquial series, including Colloquial Hebrew. It’s just the BEST self-instruction Hebrew book around. It’s not free, but it’s VERY cheap considering what it gives you.
If you want to learn Hebrew systematically, the Routledge Colloquial book is a good option.
I like the Routledge books because they come with audio you can download and don’t focus on teaching you the alphabet too early.
Like the Arabic book, I really like the Routledge Colloquial Hebrew book for
- Clear descriptions of how grammar works, like how to conjugate verbs. I’m a fan of learning rules, because they save my ass when I forget sentences from rote memorisation through sentence bank systems like Glossika.
- Cultural notes on things like gender, addressing people with the right formality, and slang/colloquialisms
- Exercises to drill things in
- Searchability, so I can hunt down phrases I really like (this is the main reason I prefer ebooks to physical books)
- It comes in a Kindle version so I don’t have to carry a book around
- The Hebrew conversation audio is all online, and downloadable so you can chuck it in your phone.
I definitely recommend Colloquial Hebrew to learn Hebrew.
Forvo — Pronounce Anything
Learn Hebrew pronunciation correctly by listening to native speakers sayin the words.
Because Google Translate (which doesn’t have reliable pronunciation in many languages, and doesn’t have any in Hebrew or Persian) is my preferred translator, I have to get someone to pronounce the words — and Forvo is my main choice.
Forvo is a pronunciation dictionary for many, many words, in many languages. It’s very comprehensive. It’s extremely rare that I don’t find a word in Forvo — it’s usually because I have typed it wrong.
The pronunciations are by humans and are of high quality.
I don’t know how the owner (A Spanish/Basque person named Felix Vela) did it, but it is an incredible job.
Glossika Hebrew — Listen and Repeat Natural Hebrew (7 day free trial)
We really like Glossika because it forces us to listen to sentences as they’re spoken naturally, by natives. Listening and repeating is just such a good way to learn.
Try Glossika for a Week for Free
Try Glossika’s method of teaching language through thousands of sample sentences. Learn languages by sentences spoken by native speakers in over 60 languages.
I wrote previously about Glossika. It’s not free, but it’s crazy invaluable because it hammers in sentences that you can recall quickly without even having to think about it. It has happened to me multiple times in multiple languages. It’s one of my favourite ways of lazily learning a language.
Glossika is no different for Hebrew — it’s a really great tool to learn Hebrew sentences.
A few reasons why Glossika is an awesome resource:
- It teaches you vocabulary in context — not just words in a vacuum
- You listen and repeat to full sentences
- You constantly hear the language spoken the way people do in everyday life
- You learn to say truly useful things and are able to select from topics important to you, so you don’t learn arbitrary words and phrases
The only thing I don’t like about Glossika is the transliterations (using the Latin alphabet). Sometimes they’re inconsistent, and they’re usually hard to read. I just listen, don’t read the transliterations. This isn’t bad overall, as it does force me to learn to read the Hebrew to resolve ambiguities.
What Hebrew resources I didn’t find
If you’re thinking of making a product to help people learn Hebrew, this is what I couldn’t find.
There is no good English to Hebrew dictionary app (not even paid)
There are no decent English to Hebrew dictionaries in the App stores. Pealim is a good one but it’s online-only, and has limited sample sentences.
If someone wants to build a great English to Hebrew dictionary app with pronunciation and sample sentences, I’d download it!
There is no good electronic Hebrew phrasebook — neither an app nor a book in Kindle format
Phrasebooks are useful for common slang, words and phrases, as well as a quick review of the foundations of grammar. I would never refer to them on the fly, but they’re good as a study guide.
If someone wants to make one of the above — let me know and I’ll be a customer!