If not studied as a child, Hebrew is a safa kasha (difficult language). It is even more so if you want to use it not just for ordinary conversation, but for praying and for delving into the intricacies of Jewish religious texts.
Now TES of New York has provided new ways to use Hebrew. The first is for those who don't even know how to read the aleph bet and are unfamiliar with the vowels - but who nevertheless want instantly to pray in Hebrew or read the Bible or other Jewish texts while seeing it in Latin letters. The powerful automated transliterator program can turn Hebrew, Yiddish or Aramaic into letters that English and Russian speakers can read, converting a whole document in seconds or even a whole book in a matter of minutes. From the start, you can choose between modern Israeli (Sephardi) or Ashkenazi pronunciation.
The software comes complete with a clip-text library of digital Hebrew books that includes complete Sephardi and Ashkenazi prayer books, the Pentateuch, all the Books of the Prophets, all five Megilot, the Book of Psalms and the Passover Haggada. All of that can be transliterated, but if there is any Hebrew-letter text you want to convert and you don't have a Hebrew keyboard attached to your computer, there is a Hebrew virtual keyboard and a vowel editor in the program for further text entry and text customization. The program works with both the Microsoft Word and Dagesh word processing programs.
If you want to recite the mourner's kaddish or a Shabbat song, for example, simply select the Hebrew text you want. Paste it into the text entry box and click on the transliterator button. Text can be shown in large fonts for reading by visually disabled users. It can also be printed out or exported to the Internet as HTML for long-distance teaching or studying.
Beyond home use, the program will be very helpful to Diaspora synagogues and Hebrew schools, who without it have had to laboriously transliterate Hebrew text in Latin letters for teaching the Hebrew language and preparing customized prayer sheets.
The Mishna disk is part of a series of TES programs that translates religious Hebrew texts at your own pace, word by word as a stand-alone or in the context of the Mishna sentence. Previous disks covered each of the Five Books of Moses, a five CD-ROM set covering the whole Pentateuch, the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges; and more will certainly follow. Not only is the meaning of each word given in precise English, but it also pronounces the Hebrew and transliterates it in modern Sephardi or Ashkenazi-accented Hebrew. The English translation of every Mishna becomes clear in its context, and it includes English commentary based on Bartenura and Kehati. Users can proceed to the next word by clicking on a new one, or they can turn on the automatic button and determine the number of seconds to wait. After you've digested the material in the study mode, an interactive review in the form of multiple choice questions is presented, along with scores to track your progress.
An interactive review of concepts in each Mishna ensures maximum comprehension, while a global review covers all the material. The program tracks words that require further study, and you can print out those missed with corrections and transliteration for review away from computer. Finally, there is a Mishna dictionary word list in Hebrew and English that you can print out and study anywhere.
These two helpful programs join other TES products that promote extracurricular Jewish and Hebrew study on your own time and at your own speed.