11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Hebrew Language

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It might sound difficult at first, but the Hebrew language is one of the most interesting languages in the world! Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why.

1. Hebrew is one of the oldest languages in the world.

courtesy: Chabad.org

Dating back thousands of years, parchments and biblical scriptures are evidence that Hebrew was one of the first recorded languages!

2. To be, or not to be? 

courtesy: Chabad.org

Technically, Hebrew doesn’t have the verb “to be.” When you’re expected to use the verb, you can just ignore it completely, such as “I here.” or “I ready.”

3. There are no uppercase and lowercase letters!

Unlike English, for example, where pronouns, titles, and the first letter in the first word of a sentence are capitalized, Hebrew letters are always written in the same size and style.

4. And there aren’t any vowels either.

courtesy: Chabad.org

Most languages rely on a vowels to help with the sounds that different letters make. Well, not Hebrew! The alphabet is accompanied by symbols surrounding the letters to help speakers with the sound. 

5. Hebrew is written from right to left.

courtesy: LUKE JONES/FLICKR

One of the most striking aspects of Hebrew is how it is written “backwards” compared to Roman languages. No one is clear on the reason for this, but some suggest it was easier to carve on the tablets.

6. Hebrew went ‘quiet’ for some 1,500 years.

courtesy: Chabad.org

Hebrew is spoken by more than 9 million people today, but that wasn’t always the case. It was revived in the 19th Century after being mainly a written language since around 200 CE.

7. There is an entire academy which governs the language.

courtesy: Wikipedia (Wikimedia Commons)

Established in 1953, the Academy of the Hebrew Language was set up by the Israeli government, in order to provide official guidelines for grammar and new words that are added to the dictionary.

The Academy adds approximately 2,000 new Hebrew words each year for modern words, by finding an original Hebrew word that captures the meaning, as opposed to incorporating more English words into the language.

8. Some letters have ‘final’ forms.

courtesy: myjewishlearning.com

Much like how English has capital letters at the start of some words, Hebrew has “final” forms of five different letters that always appear at the end of the words in which they appear.

9. It’s the language of prayer.

courtesy: Chabad.org

Hebrew is used as the primary prayer language for Jews. This is why young children, who may not speak Hebrew, will still recite it — and many boys who recite their Bar Mitzvah portions don’t truly know what they’re actually saying!

10. A root of the matter

Like all Semitic languages, Hebrew uses a pattern of “roots” mainly consisting of three letters which serve as the base of a series of words with similar meanings. Nouns, adjectives, and verbs are formed in various ways using these roots, such as by inserting letters, doubling letters, lengthening letters, and adding prefixes, suffixes, or infixes.

11. Directly speaking

In Hebrew, there is a specific preposition (את et) for direct objects. The first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, was convinced that this preposition should no longer be used, because it makes sentences longer without adding meaning, but ultimately it remains part of everyday spoken and written Hebrew.

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Dating back thousands of years, parchments and biblical scriptures are evidence that Hebrew was one of the first recorded languages!

Dating back thousands of years, parchments and biblical scriptures are evidence that Hebrew was one of the first recorded languages!

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