Programs put Hebrew on your tongue

The two leading Diaspora producers of Jewish software - TES and Davka - have just made it easier to learn Hebrew.

Word book 88 (photo credit: )
Word book 88
(photo credit: )
Out of Zion came forth the Torah, but useful programs to teach adults and children to read and speak conversational Hebrew apparently can also come out of Chicago, Illinois and Monsey, New York. The two leading Diaspora producers of Jewish software - TES and Davka Corporation - have just made it easier to conquer the Hebrew language. But these new products do not really compete with each other; instead, they complement each other. If you - new immigrants, Diaspora Jews, tourists and non-Jewish lovers of Judaica and Israel - are not yet familiar with the aleph-bet and how to read letters with vowels, start with the TES program to familiarize yourself with the building blocks of Hebrew and basic phrases. Then proceed to the Davka disk to learn hundreds more vocabulary words and expressions with the help of colorful photographs and charming cartoons. Monsey-based TES, which collaborated with the Jewish Continuity Foundation on this Hebrew-language training system, is so certain it will help you that it comes with a money-back guarantee: The company promises that if users do not increase their Hebrew reading skills with this system, they will get a complete refund. It consists of a nine-step self-study Hebrew course to make it possible to speak, read and understand modern and even biblical Hebrew. It begins with a lesson in letter recognition. Just pass your cursor over each letter on the screen and its name is sounded out loud and written in English. Later you drag shuffled letters - either print or script fonts - to their places in alphabetical order. Every time you hover over them with your cursor, the human-voice narrator tells you how they sound in modern Hebrew pronunciation. Next come the 14 Hebrew vowels, on which you are tested after you learn them. After you think you've got that down pat, two, three and four-letter Hebrew words are presented, followed by meaningful sentences from the Psalms. Each lesson consists of a training session and review that can be followed at your own pace. This is where the Davka program comes in. Once you can read Hebrew, learn even more words and phrases by viewing them in voweled Hebrew letters and a printed English translation (but no English transliteration). Davka offers 29 different categories from Animals to Water (with Astronomy, Creepy Crawlies, Police & Emergency and Transportation in between). Each of the words, between nine and 20 in each category, appears with a photo and is sounded out in Israeli-accented Hebrew by the narrator. If you attach a microphone to your computer, you can record words, hear them played back and compare your pronunciation with the narrator's, as well as print everything out. A quiz, accompanied by a timer for working against the clock, enables users to test themselves, with the option of being tested on one English phrase and a choice of matching it with one of three Hebrew phrases, or one Hebrew phrase and a choice of three English ones. Next, go into the Hebrew phrase book for 18 categories, including banking, medical/emergencies, politics, shopping and the weather, each entry accompanied by cartoon graphics. The Davka disk offers the option of installing a Word-A-Day or a Phrase-a-Day feature, which surprises you daily by teaching you new entries, using photos, when you boot your computer. These can easily be uninstalled at will. Is there a better way to start the day than learning some Hebrew?