Why Learn Hebrew?

Think beyond the Bible! Modern Hebrew is a language of vital importance in fields that range from religion and history to international relations, computer science, business, and medicine.

Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people, but you do not need to be Jewish or have any religious school background to be fascinated by Hebrew’s internal logic and its connections between the ancient world and our lifestyles today.

The Hebrew Language Sequence

Working with the Brandeis Modern Hebrew textbook and audio system, as well as the Israeli internet and films, at Carleton we continually integrate listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Hebrew.

Hebrew 101 begins in winter term every other year and can include students with some prior exposure to Hebrew, as well as new beginners. Since reading without vowels develops as we understand more grammar, and Israeli ways of writing script letters can be new, everyone in Hebrew 101 is quickly on the same footing. Beyond 101, term long projects that help students transition smoothly between Hebrew levels are the hallmark of our language sequence at Carleton.

In Hebrew 102 groups of students select an Israeli pop song each and all group members learn to sing theirs together, in sync with the artists.  After researching the musicians’ backgrounds and interpreting their lyrics, the students present this information and perform their songs in our end of term “Karaoke in Hebrew” event.

Hebrew 103 focuses on publishing in-class magazines on topics related to Israel, the Middle East, and wider Jewish history.

Also working with Israeli or broader Jewish media and history, Hebrew 204 students research and compose a ten page thesis paper in Hebrew and reflect their findings in a poster and accompanying public talk. Independent studies and small reading classes can be available for beyond Hebrew 204, often with a specific focus such as learning Hebrew for Holocaust research.

If you have completed Hebrew 102 you can also join more advanced students in “language trailer” classes for courses such as CAMS 236: Israeli Society in Israeli Cinema, and MELA 121: Middle Eastern Perspectives in Israeli and Palestinian Literature & Film. A Hebrew trailer meets once a week during either of these courses. We grow our film and/or literature vocabulary in Hebrew so we can talk about the movies or novels we’re studying in class, read film reviews in Hebrew, and watch and discuss some film clips without English subtitles.

After completing our basic sequence in Hebrew, students moving on to study in Israel have placed into the third and fourth levels of Ulpan, Israel’s traditional six level system of intensive language instruction. After four terms at Carleton our Hebrew students are conversant in a range of everyday situations, with growing skills in understanding TV news, films, newspapers, and Hebrew short stories.

Beyond the Classroom

To study a language at Carleton is to enter a dynamic community, both during and after class. Our ways of extending a fun Hebrew-speaking environment beyond the classroom include holding a weekly Hebrew lunch table and regularly screening a range of recent Israeli films. In periodic evening activities each term we work our way up to inviting guest speakers to talk about Israeli or broader Jewish or Middle Eastern topics, followed by discussion.

In addition, we encourage further language study in Israel either at a university of in a kibbutz work/ study program. Carleton’s retired Hebrew instructor, Elie Alyeshmerni, established the Jonathan Paradise Israel Experience Scholarship to provide a foundation of support for two to three Carleton students to explore Israel through study and travel.

We are working toward a term long Carleton in Israel program, following two very successful Winter Break programs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.