We have arrived at a divine cross section- what is the best language to learn in Israel? Hebrew. Which is the best place to learn Hebrew? Israel.
Oh what a boozy cocktail to be an international student in a foreign land with a foreign tongue and a zest to learn a new speech--And now that you're @studyinginisrael.info, it concerns you that Hebrew is the official language of Israel and has about 9M speakers worldwide. Admittedly, Hebrew does not even feature in the top 20 most widely spoken languages in the world and for a combination of factors, is unlikely to win a languages popularity contest. However, when this image is adjusted to capture your international student experience in Israel, there are compelling reasons to invest your time and energy in learning the language, Let's explore some of these reasons together:
#1 It is the language of the land
Ancient/Classical Hebrew, the original language of the Bible is about 3000 years old and among the oldest languages in the world. It is the language of Judaism and all religious as well as culturally significant texts. This attaches a high degree of prestige to it, .. making it a connoisseur's language. Even so, it is widely read and understood by the religious population whom you are likely to find immersed in books on public transport. Indeed, it is in Israel where you find the greatest concentration of Hebrew scholars, readers, writers, speakers and carriers. One is surrounded by a very specific resource in this geography and it would be a shame to not explore it, at the very least.
#2 Modern Hebrew has a badass story
What's crazy is that Hebrew was a dead language for about 2000 years, and its only use was in liturgical and legal texts. Moreover, it was not a native language of any community until its successful revival during the late 20th century. A conscious, social and political movement which gained global footprints, spearheaded by Eliezer Ben Yehuda (fondly remembered in Israel today) restored the language as a unifier for Jews around the world. One of the techniques he applied was introducing new words for stuff that didn't exist in ancient times like eggplant and electricity. Therefore, its development has been curative, creative and is ongoing.
#3 - To have an authentic Israeli experience
Knowing Hebrew will substantially enhance your cultural experience of living and studying in Israel. One needn't necessarily have full conversations with strangers to have an 'authentic experience' but picking up a bit of the language is very rewarding. It helps to know the basics for example 'Toda Raba' (Thank You very much) to effectively communicate your thanks but also ackowledge when you're receiving it. More culture specific-commonly used terms like 'Shnea/ Rega' (wait) which are (over)used here, may at first annoy you but eventually becomes pure joy to throw around, something you can't necessarily do in other cultures. I'd say to take advantage!
#4 Fertile grounds for new speakers
Thousands of new immigrants (Olim) take up Israeli citizenship under Israel's Law of Return every year. A large section of them move after living a lifetime in different parts of the world. It's quite unimaginable to have a fully functioning life here without knowing Hebrew and so pretty much everyone learns the language. The infrastructure for adult language education is robust with many options of 'Ulpan', or intensive Hebrew language courses. You are likely to interact with people that have either themselves learned Hebrew at a later stage in life or someone that has taught others. Still, there is no need to feel embarrassed about speaking broken Hebrew as people are sincerely patient with new learners and you will find many others in the same boat as you.
#5 Hebrew can be your niche asset
As established, Hebrew might be an ancient language of a very specific people, but is slowly becoming popular among the global masses. As Israel expands its global footprint and makes a mark in the field of technology, defense, startups, agriculture, etc. there are going to be more opportunities for Internationals with degrees of Hebrew Proficiency and you might yourself be a valuable asset.
There are two schools of thoughts when deciding to learn Hebrew while studying in Israel:
You're taking classes already and in a studious mode, might as well just add an Ulpan
You're already taking classes and don't want more so learn through alternate ways
We will explore both these methods in our next blog Ways to learn Hebrew when @studyinginisrael.info