13 Mistakes You’re Probably Making With Hebrew

3 min read
Yonatan Engler
Yonatan Engler

You’ve probably heard it before: It’s okay to make mistakes, so long as they’re the “right” mistakes.

Since learning Hebrew is a journey, and an important tool for feeling like a local in Israel, here are the “wrong” mistakes to avoid.

1. Learning words you’ll never use

The best way to start learning a language is by learning the “urban dictionary” – words locals frequently use. Check out our web series The Magic Hat for some insight into how locals speak.

Keywords to know: לְהִשְׁתַמֵשׁ (leh-heesh-tah-mesh)

Translation: to use

2. Learning words which are too “correct”

In your native language, you probably speak casually, so keep it simple when learning a new language. Start with The Tel Avivian Guide to Learning the Hebrew Alphabet, so you can perfect the basics.

Keywords to know: פָּשׁוּט (pah-shoot)

Translation: simple

3. You translate phrases directly.

Don’t get caught up trying to invent new words. Here’s a blog post about Hebrew Words That Don’t Have English Equivalents.

Keywords to know: תִרגוּם יָשִׁיר (teer-goom yah-sheer)

Translation: direct translation

4. You try to memorize words by repeating them.

Don’t just close your eyes and repeat the same word over and over again. Believe us, it’s not effective. Instead, go out and use your vocabulary in the context of life. Here’s our guide to The 9 Best Places to Upgrade Your Hebrew.

Keywords to know: אוֹצָר מִילִים (oh-tzar mee-leem)

Translation: vocabulary

5. You try learning too many words.

Your brain can only retain so much new material, and it’s ineffective to cram as much as possible. Try focusing on one new word a day, and use it in different contexts. Start with these 21 Hebrew Words That Are Actually English for now.

Keywords to know: יוֹתֵר מִדַּי (yoh-ter mee-die)

Translation: too much

6. Writing down everything in your notebook

Our theory is that what gets written down on paper doesn’t stick in your head. Let’s be honest, how often will you have your notebook with you when you need it?

Keywords to know: לְתַרְגֵּל (leh-tar-gel)

Translation: to practice

7. Getting mad for not remembering

Be patient with yourself. The fact that you’re even trying to learn a new language in a victory in and of itself!

Keywords to know: לִזְכֹּור (leez-kor)

Translation: to remember

8. You’re afraid to speak because your Hebrew isn’t perfect.

When a child is learning to walk and falls every few seconds, she doesn’t say to herself, “Maybe this isn’t for me.”

Keywords to know: מוּשׁלָם (moosh-lahm)

Translation: perfect

9. You compare yourself to others.

Remember, everyone learns at their own pace, and we all have different circumstances in our lives.

Keywords to know: לְאַט לְאַט (leh-aht leh-aht)

Translation: little by little

10. You listen to Israelis when they say, “You’ve been here a year already and you don’t speak Hebrew?”

Don’t let their brute honesty get to you. If you’re still trying to figure out Israelis, here’s a guide on why It’s Not Rude, It’s Cultural: A Think Piece on Israeli Conversation.

Keywords to know: חֻוצְפָּה (chootz-pah)

Translation: audacity

11. Speaking to your partner in Hebrew

Don’t mix business and pleasure; keep the home your comfort zone. Miscommunication is a sure recipe for mishaps. Instead, you can Impress Your Israeli Crush With These 7 Hebrew Phrases.

Keywords to know: בֶּן זוּג (ben zoog – male), בַּת זוּג (baht zoog – female)

Translation: romantic partner

12. You try learning from reading.

Reading is a good tool for reading, not for speaking. Instead, socializing in small group settings is best for building your confidence in Hebrew (which is why we limit our courses to eight students per group … wink, wink.)

Keywords to know: לִקְרֹוא

Translation: to read

13. You’re too critical of yourself.

Relax, take it easy. As soon as you get the hang of it, speaking Hebrew is like riding a bike.

Keywords to know: לְהֵרָגֵעַ (leh-hee-rah-gah)

Translation: to relax


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