At no point in history have there been more ways of learning Hebrew. Thanks to modern technology, there are many, many options out there, even for those with limited budgets, schedules and mobility — ranging in price from absolutely free to thousands of dollars.
In addition to the traditional route of consulting books or signing up for an in-person class through a synagogue, Jewish community center or university — or traveling to Israel where there are myriad in-person courses and programs — you now can choose from an array of online courses, apps and software. Or, you can set aside a summer vacation for a full-scale immersion program in rustic Vermont!
Selecting the Right Program for You
In sifting among the options, think about your goals, your level of self-discipline and how much time you are able to commit to the endeavor. Are you looking simply to decode so you can follow along in the prayer book? Do you want to study the Bible in its original? Seeking to learn a few phrases to use on a vacation in Israel? Or are you hoping to become fluent in conversational Hebrew?
Vardit Ringvald, director of the School of Hebrew at Middlebury College and a longtime consultant to a variety of institutions that teach Hebrew, also suggests you think about your learning style. “Some people are very independent” and can teach themselves from a book or self-paced program, but others need the social interaction and structure of studying with other people at a scheduled time.
While apps can be engaging and are useful for introducing and reinforcing vocabulary, Ringvald says, they lack “real interaction,” which can make it hard for students to progress from intermediate to advanced or “be able to use the language in real-life situations.”
Although many beginners are interested in focusing on reading or biblical/prayer book Hebrew exclusively, Ringvald encourages learners to jump in with conversational Hebrew.
“Modern Hebrew will reinforce your classical Hebrew,” she says. “It’s not a linear process where first you learn the alphabet, second you learn to read and third you learn the language. Doing it all together is key to success.”
Below is a sampling of online courses and resources organized by category and alphabetically. Did we miss something important? Have you tried some of the programs below and had positive or negative experiences? Do you see something that needs to be updated? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore My Jewish Learning’s courses for learning Hebrew:
Learn Hebrew one day at a time through this email series! Each day, you will receive a Hebrew word in your inbox, as well as its pronunciation, definition and other helpful information. Sign up here.
Learn how to read Hebrew or brush up your skills in just six sessions with Rabbi Peretz Rodman! By the end of the series, participants will be able to “sound out” any word in Hebrew (with vowels).
This course is led by Dr. Tamar Kamionkowski, longtime professor for Biblical Studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, who teaches vocabulary, grammar, and interpretation of Hebrew prayers, with an emphasis on the High Holiday liturgy. Exercises and PDFs for each session can be found at the Kamionkowski Beit Midrash website.
These lessons can be done completely on your own schedule, but they do not include interaction with a real person.
Focused on Hebrew reading; seven lessons (accessible on computers and mobile devices), includes flashcards, quizzes, videos and other resources.
Can sample online Hebrew learning tools, including audio lessons, games and quizzes, for free before you buy it. Accessible on computers and mobile devices. In addition to conversational Hebrew lessons, offers a separate reading class, as well as a prayers class. Beginners can try out one month for free.
Offers both biblical and modern Hebrew. Accessible on computers and mobile devices. Available for free through participating libraries in the United States, Canada and several other countries, or you can purchase a monthly or annual subscription.
Mostly audio, but includes reading instruction too. They promise, “Thirty minutes a day is all it takes, and we get you speaking right from the first day.” Available for free through some public libraries, for sale on own site and Amazon. Can be purchased five lessons at a time, one level at a time, or all three levels in one package . You can also download one free lesson from their official website.
Software package, accessible on computer and mobile devices — can pay for a subscription by the month, year, two-year. Or can pay one-time fee to download to computer (no mobile access, but can use without Internet connection and can be used by up to five people). Has speech-recognition software to provide feedback on your accent/pronunciation. Available for free at some public libraries. Downloads and discs also available through Amazon.
Online Courses With Teachers or Tutors
The below all include synchronous sessions (whether via Skype, Webinar or other software) where you can see and speak with the teacher and other students.
Rosen School of Hebrew
Classes in small groups or one-on-one with Israel-based teachers certified in teaching Hebrew as a second language. Eight levels are offered, and a separate program for children is also available. Option to take classes once or twice weekly. Offers separate biblical Hebrew classes through a partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Various levels of Hebrew courses offered online, on a college semester schedule (Fall, Spring, Summer), with option to take for college credit or not. (For credit is more expensive). Courses include weekly live class session plus assignments and exercises.
Hebrew Homepage (also available for children)
Weekly 30-minute one-on-one sessions with tutor using a webinar platform. Curriculums include learning the Aleph Bet, navigating prayer book Hebrew and modern conversational Hebrew.
Offers virtual group and private lessons in Modern Hebrew; also organizes in-personal classes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Instruction is available at multiple levels, as well as special business curriculums and courses for kids.
One-on-one 30-minute or 45-minute sessions via Skype, plus homework and exercises. Also offer video course to teach beginners how to read in Hebrew and free e-book “First 100 words in Hebrew: what a tourist in Israel should know.”
Apps and Podcasts
A search on the App Store or Google Play will turn up on an overwhelming quantity of apps, many of them free, that teach Hebrew reading/decoding and sometimes conversational skills. We selected the following ones because they were personally recommended by individual educators. If you’ve had a good or bad experience using these or others, please let us know!
Offers a placement test and lots of lessons, games and activities. They claim it is “so fun that people would prefer picking up new skills over playing a game.” Can be used on computer or on iOS or Android mobile devices.
Podcasts are approximately 10-15 minutes each and are based on short dialogues on a wide variety of topics. Despite the very basic-looking website, the technology works smoothly. All audio lessons can be streamed for free, but a subscription is required to download them and to access supporting materials, such as transcripts, flash cards, games and quizzes. The more than 150 podcasts (new advanced ones are added monthly) range from beginner to advanced. Although there is a lesson teaching the aleph-bet, it is not clear whether this would be sufficient to teach reading.
Interactive lessons and activities available on desktop computer and mobile devices. Enables users to create customized flash cards and other materials, compete with friends and form or join study groups. According to Memrise, the program “uses clever science to adapt to your personal learning style and performance.”
Tools for Enrichment
EKS Hebrew Flashcards
Virtual Hebrew-English flashcards for both Biblical Hebrew (includes 335 words) and Prayerbook Hebrew (includes 332 words), with audio feature to test learner’s pronunciation. Available as iPhone or Android apps.
Short (approximately 8-minute) and entertaining podcasts about Modern Hebrew, focusing on slang and etymology.
Intensive Immersion Experiences
Middlebury Immersion Program
Participants live on campus and commit to speaking only Hebrew for the entire three-week or seven-week session. Rigorous daily classroom instruction for various levels, including beginner, plus organized all-in-Hebrew activities, such as soccer and theater. Offers both Modern and Classical Hebrew.
Numerous intensive Hebrew programs (called ulpans) are offered throughout Israel, ranging from one week to five months in length and ranging widely in price. They include Ulpan Israeli, Ulpan Etzion, and programs at major universities, such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. Click here for a directory of Israeli ulpans compiled by Nefesh B’Nefesh, a group that promotes and facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel.