My husband and I desire our children to learn the languages of Scripture: Hebrew and Greek. When we heard about the At
Home with Hebrew and Hebrew Kindergarten CD programs, we were excited about the opportunity to introduce our teenaged sons to the ancient language before delving into a more rigorous study of Hebrew.
At Home with Hebrew is a basic, simply-designed interactive multi-media program that teaches students to recognize Hebrew letters and words. Over eight hundred screen pages and twenty-five hundred voice files (Israeli/Sephardic pronunciation) familiarize beginners with the Hebrew alphabet, four hundred most common Hebrew words, books of the Bible in Hebrew, numbers, Jewish calendar, and several Jewish blessings and chants. While the program boasts no astounding graphics, it is clear and relatively simple to use. Most of the thirteen main lessons are presented in "text style". In other words, a student must read anywhere from a paragraph to half page of information to learn and understand the presented material before benefiting from the multi-media helps. One of the program's nice features is the ability to right click on a word or letter to see the English translation or left click to see the Hebrew transliteration and hear the pronunciation. Although the creator suggests that the program can be used "for all ages," self-motivators with a strong grasp of the written English language will benefit most from all that At
Home with Hebrew offers.
The program includes six games. A speed drill, phone game, and Twelve Tribes game reinforce letter, number, and word recognition. The matching game, while useful, only includes the transliteration, not the Hebrew. The symbols game is simply historical in nature, but fun, nonetheless. Students are asked to match a picture sign (a doe, for example) with the Tribe (Naphtali). A final game uses photos of Hebrew advertisements/signs to teach word recognition. Hints are available, and a left click gives the transliteration. Right clicking the sign reveals the advertisement translated into English. While entertaining, the game might be a bit tricky for students who have just learned to read standard Hebrew font since the activity includes modern Hebrew script that varies significantly from the traditional. Additionally, we faced a recurring font glitch that required repairs on numerous pages in order to see the text in Hebrew at all. There were occasional typos which were a bit distracting but didn't affect our ability to use the program: an oversight we assume will be addressed in later editions.
A highlight of the program is the section of approximately twenty readings and chants. The language sounds beautiful either read or chanted in Ashkenazi or Sephardic. Additionally, there is a section of Psalms, songs (though we could never correct a recurring problem with the fonts), and the Law. We appreciated the emphasis on God's Word and as Christians, appreciated the opportunity to learn more about our Hebrew roots. Homeschool parents will also value At
Home with Hebrew's exam material and the ability to track the progress of multiple students at once.
The Hebrew Kindergarten program is a DVD program designed like an interactive book. It uses eight Hebrew stories that follow several characters through normal daily activities. The stories introduce one thousand vocabulary words and basic Hebrew grammar through the written word and audio presentation recorded by four Israeli speakers. The program comes with 14 audio CD's in a CD wallet and a binder of the material covered in the DVD, including all eight stories printed in Hebrew character. An audio file allows users to download the stories to an MP3 player for auditory reinforcement. The Hebrew
Kindergarten DVD has a tidy, organized feel to it, not unlike a young child's reading primer. Chapters can be chosen from a box to the left of the main screen. Clicking on one of the chapters brings up further possibilities such as the text itself, grammar, drills, and questions and answers. Cartoon-style illustrations appear on each page and the overall quality of the program boasts a more professional feel than At
Home with Hebrew.
By choosing the text for a given chapter, the Hebrew words appear. Moving the cursor over a word reveals the pronunciation, transliteration, root, and a grammar note (for example "conjunction+proper name") appears in an explanatory box. Left-clicking the word provides an audio pronunciation. By clicking on a megaphone symbol to the right of each sentence, students can hear the sentence recited completely. Additionally, there's an auto speak button which allows the entire chapter to be recited.
Don't let the name "Kindergarten" fool you. Students will need to patiently work through a difficult language. We'd recommend starting with the alphabet lesson (by clicking on an icon at the bottom of the screen) and then practicing word recognition using the flashcards. Hebrew Kindergarten attempts to reinforce grammar material through drills but Hebrew is a challenging language and many of the lessons require a thorough understanding of English in order to make sense of the Hebrew grammar. However, the program could be successfully used, without the grammar lessons, to familiarize young children with the look and sound of the language before potential "language intimidation" sets it. Students will need to explore the DVD a bit in order to truly grasp many concepts. It seems nearly impossible to launch right into the stories and expect to understand how to complete the drills without first having spent time memorizing vocabulary and reading through the grammar rules. My husband, who already knows Hebrew, says he would have grown frustrated with the program if he hadn't already known something of the language. Our teenaged sons, too, found it a bit overwhelming at first. However, it is, at a minimum, a delightful supplemental resource. Memory games and quizzes keep students excited about learning, and our sons thought the games were creative and helpful once a base knowledge was established. There's enough here to keep the tedium of language-acquisition at bay.
Technically-speaking we noticed a font shift within a matching game that might prove confusing to those new to Hebrew, but all-in-all, the program has many nice features: the ability to change font sizes and styles, alter screen colors, turn English translations on or off, and track the progress of multiple students.
If you're looking for an opportunity to familiarize yourself or your student with Hebrew in a way that is both educational and entertaining, or if you're looking for a creative way to supplement your Hebrew grammar text, then At
Home with Hebrew and Hebrew Kindergarten are excellent choices.