Get up to 45% Off with the 12-month challenge. Ends soon!
Get up to 45% Off with the 12-month challenge. Ends soon!
HebrewPod101.com Blog
Learn Hebrew with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Why learn Hebrew? 10 reasons to start learning today.

Thumbnail

With all the languages you could possibly study, you may be wondering, “Why learn Hebrew?” 

And that’s a fair question. 

As you probably already know, Hebrew doesn’t even come close to being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, nor is it spoken as an official language in anyplace other than Israel. Nevertheless, Hebrew is unique among the languages, and there’s no shortage of solid reasons to study it.

Whether you’re interested in one of the world’s oldest languages (and cultures), want to become involved in one of the world’s most vibrant economies, wish to visit a country where numerous events crucial to Western culture took place, or simply want to partake in what is likely the most miraculous linguistic experiment the world has ever seen, Hebrew is the language for you! 

In today’s lesson, we’ll have a look at the top 10 reasons to study Hebrew.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Hebrew and the Land of Israel
  2. Personal Benefits of Learning Hebrew
  3. Additional Benefits of Learning Hebrew
  4. Now that you have so many reasons to learn Hebrew, let HebrewPod101 help you achieve your goals.

1. Hebrew and the Land of Israel

Map of Israel with Flag

Hebrew is directly linked to the Jewish People—often referred to, in fact, as Hebrews—and likewise to the land of Israel. In fact, the word originates as a descriptor for Abram’s (later Abraham) lineage, as his family is described as coming from the East, over the Jordan River. The word לעבור (la’avor) means “to cross (over),” and Abram is described as עברי (‘Ivri), derived from this same root apparently by way of describing him as being from “across” the river. This same word gives us our English word “Hebrew.” 

Now, let’s have a look at some of the unique cultural and historical elements of Hebrew that make it a compelling choice when picking a language to study.

1- Hebrew is over 3,000 years old.

Western Wall

Hebrew is no spring chicken. The earliest records of Paleo-Hebrew—the earliest known form of the language—date back to the tenth century BCE, making Hebrew over 3,000 years old! 

Belonging to the Canaanite language group, a branch of the Northwest Semitic language family, Hebrew is the traditional language of the Hebrew people who share its name, most notably the Jews, who are descendants of the Hebrew Kingdom of Judah (as opposed to the so-called Lost Tribes of the Kingdom of Israel, though both kingdoms spoke Hebrew). In ancient times, the peak of Hebrew use lasted from around 1200 to the Babylonian Exile of 586 BCE, though the language continued in use for some time later, alongside Aramaic.

By Late antiquity, Hebrew was extinct as a spoken language, but continued to be used by Jews mostly for liturgical, exegetical, and holy literary purposes. It was not widely spoken again until the late nineteenth century, when Zionist efforts to revive the language miraculously succeeded even after almost two millenia of disuse as a spoken tongue. It’s now Israel’s official language, and spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. By learning Hebrew, then, you’re taking part in an ongoing three-millennia linguistic journey!

2- Hebrew is the language of the Bible.

Torah Scroll

Hebrew is the language of the entire Hebrew Bible (known by Christians as the Old Testament), with the sole exceptions of the Books of Daniel and Ezra, which are in Aramaic. Unarguably considered cornerstones of Western culture, the Hebrew Bible offers endless riches of poetry, philosophy, and history. Of course, the Hebrew found in the Bible differs vastly from Modern Hebrew, the dialect of the language spoken today. Nevertheless, just as anyone with knowledge of Modern English can at least get the gist of much of Shakespeare, anyone with basic Modern Hebrew knowledge will be able to understand a surprising amount of Hebrew Scripture.

What’s more, the Hebrew Bible has lent quite a lot of material to English, as well as to many other languages. This includes names like Jonathan (יונתן, Yonatan) and Rebecca (רבקה, Rivkah) and words like “jubilee” (from יובל, yovel, “fallow year”) and “behemoth” (from בהמה, behemah, “beast”). You can find more about these words here. 

By learning Hebrew, you can deepen your connection to the Bible and everything that has come out of it.

3- Hebrew is the language of Judaism.

Menorah

Just as Hebrew itself is a link to the ancient world, the Jewish people whose language it is are one of the world’s oldest and most interesting ethnoreligious groups. Originally from Israel and the Levant in general, Jews traced one of human history’s most extensive migrations over the course of some two millennia. Reaching all corners of the earth, from Shanghai to Sydney, Los Angeles to Lima, and Odessa to Capetown, Jews have contributed to and participated in world culture to an extent highly disproportionate to their numbers.

Thanks to a culture that stresses family ties, education, hard work, social justice, and other positive values, Judaism has managed not only to survive endless instances of persecution, oppression, and genocide, but to thrive in any society where they’ve lived. 

By learning Hebrew, then, you’re tapping into one of the world’s great cultural success stories, right down to the miracle of the modern State of Israel, founded in 1948 by Jews returned to their historical homeland after almost 2,000 years of wandering in the Diaspora. By learning Hebrew, you can strengthen your understanding of Judaism, one of the world’s great cultures.

4- Hebrew is the only language to have been successfully revived after almost two millennia of disuse as a spoken language.

Israeli Flag in Speech Bubble

As mentioned, Hebrew fell into disuse as a spoken language beginning after the Babylonian Exile of 586 BCE. As Aramaic rose to prominence in the Middle East and Jews elsewhere adopted local languages for their daily communication, Hebrew was eventually relegated to use only as a written language. Specifically, it was used for writing either prayers or liturgical poetry, or for exegesis of Biblical and other religious works. This situation prevailed until the nineteenth century, when Zionists revived Hebrew as a spoken language.

This revival of Hebrew was spearheaded by Eliezer ben Yehuda, who went so far as to move his family to Israel and force his children to speak only Hebrew—even though no other children at the time did. Ben Yehuda would go on to compile the first Hebrew dictionary and coin a profusion of words, many of which are still in use today.

In order to comprehend the significance of the efforts by Ben Yehuda and his fellow Zionists, it’s important to realize that due to its disue over such an extended period of time, Hebrew lacked a vast amount of vocabulary for describing the various aspects of modern life. Through a concerted scholarly and linguistic effort, the Zionists would devise new words, generally based on Hebrew or other Semitic languages (such as Aramaic and Arabic), though they also drew on Latin, English, Russian, French, German, and other sources, as well.

Within a relatively short span of time, Hebrew schools were established, as well as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Hebrew jargon was established for every field imaginable. Today, less than 200 years after the first attempts to revive it, Hebrew is spoken by over 9 million people! So, by learning Hebrew, you’re also taking part in perhaps the world’s greatest and most successful literary experiment!

2. Personal Benefits of Learning Hebrew

Apart from the cultural and historical elements that make Hebrew so unique, there are also great personal benefits to studying Hebrew. As the modern State of Israel represents one of the world’s most vibrant economies and one of its cultural powerhouses, Hebrew gives you a direct “in” to one of the most interesting and productive societies in the modern world. Within this context, here are a few more specific reasons why you should learn Hebrew. 

5- Hebrew gives you access to some of the best music, movies, and TV in the world.

Girl with Headphones On

Jews the world over are associated with the media, whether in terms of big-name producers and directors, or the many talented actors, musicians, and other entertainers who pertain to the Hebrew race. While Jews are quite prominent in English-language film, TV, stage, and music productions, Israel has its own highly productive media scene.

In fact, especially in the Netflix age, many Israeli productions have infiltrated the international scene, with Fauda and Unorthodox being just a couple of the more recent examples. In terms of music, Israel has produced prominent figures in just about every genre, from popstars David Broza and Dana International to classical legends like Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham—there’s even a vibrant electronic music scene represented by the likes of Infected Mushroom and Astral Projection.

By learning Hebrew, you can enjoy great Hebrew-language movies, TV shows, and music, not to mention the vast expanse of Hebrew literature stretching from antiquity to modern times. In fact, Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books published.

6- Hebrew is rare enough to be used as a secret code.

Passing Note Under Desk

As noted, Hebrew is spoken by around 9 million people, 7 million of whom speak it as their native tongue. Compared with English’s 1.5 billion speakers worldwide (350 million of whom are native speakers) or even, say, German’s roughly 200 million speakers worldwide (90-95 million of whom are native speakers), Hebrew’s numbers are miniscule. 

That being the case, learning it is something akin to joining an exclusive club. Since you can be fairly certain that just about anyone who isn’t Israeli or Jewish is unlikely to understand Hebrew, it makes for a good language when attempting to keep conversations secret. Just make sure there aren’t any inconspicuous Israelis around—Israelis can be found all across the globe!

7- Learning Hebrew means you get to acquire an entirely new alphabet, and one that’s written from right to left.

Man Writing on Chalkboard

As an extension of the previous point, Hebrew even uses its very own alphabet. Because it’s so old that it developed before paper, Hebrew (like Arabic and Farsi) is written from right to left. This is because it was originally chiselled into stone, and, most people being right-handed, it was easier to hold the hammer with the right hand and the chisel with the left. Thus, it was easier to maneuver the writing from right to left. 

Moreover, Hebrew uses a stylized Aramaic script, sometimes known as Assyrian script, entirely different from the Latinate alphabet. Originally, Hebrew was a pictographic language, later becoming abstract while still roughly maintaining the representative shapes of earlier alphabets. At the time of the Babylonian exile, however, Jews adopted the block script they encountered in use throughout the Babylonian empire, with its fancy block letters.

By learning Hebrew, you’re learning not only a new language but also an entirely new writing system. To make things even more interesting, Hebrew employs one script for print and another for handwriting, so you’re really in for a challenge. But that’s all part of the fun!

3. Additional Benefits of Learning Hebrew

Israel is unique in many ways, which means that Hebrew has no small number of unique advantages compared to other languages. For example, as an international mover and shaker in terms of both economics and academics, Israel is a great place for doing business or furthering your studies. Israel is also the only nation in the world that drafts its entire population, men and women, into the military for service, so you can expect to meet interesting people with rich life experiences.

Though plenty of dealings get done in Israel in English and other international languages, there’s no doubt that diving in and learning Hebrew will afford you a huge advantage if you have any educational, business, or other dealings with Israel or Israelis. 

Let’s take a look at three additional benefits of learning Hebrew.

8- Hebrew allows you to tap into one of the most vibrant economies and business climates in the world.

Shekels

By learning Hebrew, you’re opening yourself up to a world of opportunities. In fact, Israel was ranked third for innovation out of 137 countries in the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, and it consistently ranks high in the annual Bloomberg Global Innovation Index. 

Israel also has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any country other than the United States and China, and it’s ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds. As if that fails to impress you, there are over 300 multinational companies with research and development centers in Israel, including Coca-Cola, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Intel—a clear sign of the unparalleled research and development prowess of Israeli society. 

With all this in mind, learning Hebrew surely has the potential to open up countless doors for business opportunities.

9- Israel is a country of immigrants, so Hebrew education for non-native speakers is highly developed.

Immigrants disembarking ship

Relative to its size, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on Earth. In fact, it has absorbed some 350% of its overall population in the span of 60 years! Because Israel has so much experience with immigrants needing to integrate into Israeli society, it also has a highly developed system for teaching Hebrew to non-native speakers. Throughout Israel, there are אולפנים (ulpanim), or special learning centers where functional Hebrew is taught to immigrants wishing to study, work, and live in the country.

Apart from a wealth of educational materials to this end, including a Hebrew-language newspaper that uses simplified language to encourage immigrants to read the news in Hebrew, Israelis are also great at helping non-native speakers improve their Hebrew. They’re generally both aware of the common difficulties non-native speakers face and eager to help them overcome these challenges. And in general, you’ll find that Israelis are likely to meet you halfway even if you can’t find exactly the Hebrew word you’re looking for. 

10- Israelis make wonderful friends.

Friends Giving High Five

On the same note, Israelis represent a unique cultural community, and one that you won’t be disappointed with should you choose to foray into it. With mandatory military service, a country that’s only 77 years old but a nation that’s over 3,000 years old, and a culture that’s unique while also comprising elements from all across the globe, Israelis are quite unlike any other people. By learning Hebrew, you’ll be able to get to know and befriend some of the most interesting folks around. Moreover, Israelis are highly gregarious, so befriending one often leads to meeting more. Don’t be surprised if Israelis readily invite you to a party or even to their home, as this happens often.

In short, by learning Hebrew, you’ll open yourself up to a new and special social circle!

4. Now that you have so many reasons to learn Hebrew, let HebrewPod101 help you achieve your goals.

In this article, we discussed why to learn Hebrew when there are so many other options. We hope you’ve found today’s lesson interesting, and that at least some of the reasons we provided were compelling enough for you to follow through with your plans to study Hebrew. 

HebrewPod101 is committed to offering high-quality lessons in both audiovisual and print format, covering both the mechanics of the Hebrew language and the culture surrounding it.

We invite you to take a look at our broad pool of learning resources that will help you with every step along the way as you study the Hebrew language. You’ll find general lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, as well as lessons categorized by topic or situation (such as Hebrew for expressing anger and Hebrew for talking about food).

As always, if there’s any topic you don’t find covered on our website, or if you find yourself with questions that a particular lesson didn’t address, we’re always looking for feedback from our users. So don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re always improving to ensure that you have a fun, rewarding, and enriching experience studying Hebrew.

Until next time, Shalom!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew