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The Top 10 Hebrew Podcasts to Improve Your Language Skills

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Most people know that the best recipe for mastering a foreign language is immersion. This means exposing yourself to the language as much as possible, and it’s typically associated with living in a country where that language is spoken so you can really live it: listening to it on the radio, reading it in the news, speaking and hearing it in cafés, etc.

But even if you don’t have the resources to move abroad, Hebrew podcasts can be particularly helpful for you. Israel is the only country where Hebrew is an official language, even though you can find Hebrew-speaking Israelis all over the world. The reality is that it’s not always feasible for Hebrew learners to travel to Israel due to its geographic distance and/or travel costs. But don’t worry! Listening to a Hebrew podcast or two can simulate language immersion by enveloping you in the Hebrew language—without you ever needing to leave home.

In Hebrew, a podcast is sometimes just called a פודקאסט (podcast), but the proper Hebrew word for it is הסכת (hesket). Not only are podcasts real, live examples of Hebrew being used in its natural habitat, but they can also be a refreshing change of pace from grammar lessons and vocabulary lists. Indeed, listening to podcasts can be a surprisingly effective method for improving your Hebrew—not in spite of their low-pressure, non-academic nature but rather because of it. As you lend your ear to the grammar, vocabulary, and speech patterns of native Hebrew speakers, you’ll find that elements of language usage just seem to seep in.

Woman with Headphones On

All that being said, there are some important considerations to bear in mind when approaching Hebrew podcasts as learning aids. Let’s have a look at some general information on how podcasts can help language learners and some tips on how best to use them to your advantage. Then, we’ll check out the top 10 Hebrew podcasts, complete with an overview of the level and focus of each one.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. How can podcasts help you learn Hebrew?
  2. What can you do to get the most out of podcasts?
  3. The Top 10 Hebrew Podcasts for Language Learners
  4. It’s called HebrewPod101 for a reason!

1. How can podcasts help you learn Hebrew?

Audio Waves

As mentioned, the most effective way to acquire a foreign language is through immersion. We can define immersion in both a positive sense and a negative sense: positive in terms of exposing yourself to as much Hebrew as possible, and negative in terms of limiting how much you use your native language or any other language but Hebrew.

The best way to achieve this is simply by spending time in Israel, where Hebrew is the language of everyday life. In fact, other than particular expat enclaves, Arab neighborhoods, and other specific contexts, you would be hard-pressed not to get a vast amount of exposure to Hebrew by just placing yourself within the borders of Israel.

There’s no arguing that this is the most effective and authentic way to study Hebrew in earnest, but for many, it is simply not a possibility. Whether you cannot afford to travel or to take time off, or you simply wish to work on your Hebrew before taking a trip to Israel, you’re lucky to live in an age where, thanks to the proliferation of Hebrew media, Israel can come to you.

Elsewhere on HebrewPod101.com, we’ve talked about using music, movies, and TV shows to garner more exposure to genuine Hebrew. But now, let’s see how podcasts specifically can contribute to achieving your language learning goals.

Woman in radio studio with microphone
  1. Tuning in to Hebrew podcasts is a great way to passively boost your listening skills. While it may not feel like you’re really learning in the traditional sense, as you will not be given homework or exams, trust us when we say that just listening to authentic Hebrew will go a long way toward honing your listening comprehension. And the more you listen, the more you’ll learn—much of the time without even noticing that any learning is going on! You’ll just suddenly realize that you comprehend that much more of what a speaker is saying, or that you can understand a word you thought you’d never seen before.
  1. Your vocabulary will grow by leaps and bounds. Because you’ll be listening to native speakers in a more natural context (rather than teachers in a classroom), you’ll benefit from exposure to the full range of vocabulary a native Israeli would use to express themself: slang, jargon, and other linguistic elements that you may not find in academic resources for language learners.
  1. You will get contextualized grammar to model real-life usage. While textbooks typically have examples to model the grammar points being taught, listening to podcasts means you’ll hear how Hebrew grammar works as a matter of course, but without being bashed over the head with grammar rules and repetitive drills. In other words, you’ll naturally reinforce grammar points you’ve already learned and may very well extrapolate new grammar features just by hearing them used multiple times.
  1. Your pronunciation will flourish. This one is a bit more personal, as some people struggle more than others in this regard. Depending on your native language and your own ability to mimic foreign phoneme production, you may find it more or less difficult to produce the proper pronunciation of Hebrew words. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly strong in terms of reproducing natural-sounding pronunciation, you’ll at the very least come to comprehend it far better simply by exposing yourself to natural Hebrew speech.

2. What can you do to get the most out of podcasts?

Woman Playing Record in Studio

Now that we’ve seen how Hebrew podcasts can aid you in your language learning endeavors, let’s see some of the ways you can ensure you reap all the benefits they have to offer. Obviously, any Hebrew exposure is better than none. But there are certainly some tips that can help you pick the right podcasts for you, as well as some guidelines on how to use them effectively in the context of studying Hebrew as a foreign language.

  1. Pick the right level. This is, admittedly, somewhat trickier than choosing a study course or textbook, as most podcasts tend not to be graded by level. That said, simple common sense is your friend. For example, a podcast on general-knowledge topics or on subject matter you’re already familiar with will be easier to follow than podcasts on highly specialized topics full of jargon and esoteric information.

    Additionally, the host can have a huge impact on how easy or difficult the podcast is to follow. How fast do they speak? How clearly do they enunciate? What register are they using (e.g., formal vs. informal, academic vs. street talk, etc.)? The same is true for podcasts with guests. While multiple guests will mean more exposure to more speakers, it’s also likely to represent an additional challenge.

    You want to pick a level that feels challenging, but not overly so. Even if you can only get the gist of what’s being talked about, you’re doing fine as long as you feel you’re more or less keeping up. Don’t listen to anything that’s too easy, but also steer away from podcasts that leave you dumbfounded.

  1. Choose podcasts on topics that interest you. Podcasts should be an enjoyable learning aid rather than a frustrating one. For that reason, it’s best to seek out podcasts on themes you enjoy and maybe even know a bit about. This will help connect to top-down knowledge you already have, empowering you to focus chiefly on language acquisition without having to scratch your head over the subject matter itself. Whatever you do, don’t listen to anything that bores you!

  1. Mix it up. Whether you listen to a mix of podcasts or simply find one that’s a variety show, the important thing is to ensure you’re getting varied exposure. The reasons are obvious. The more you listen to Hebrew speakers talking about a range of topics, the more your vocabulary specifically and language knowledge in general will grow.

    Radio Tower
    1. Have a notepad handy. Just because you’re not in a classroom where you’ll be getting a grade doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of every chance to learn. Jotting down a few new words from each podcast to review and quiz yourself on later is a great way to ensure you’ll ultimately retain them. If you’re unsure of a word’s spelling, don’t fret. Just write it down the way you think it sounds, and ask a teacher or an Israeli friend for help later.

    1. Set a schedule, more or less. While it isn’t essential to tune in to every episode of a podcast, it’s a good idea to have some sort of regimen to go with your Hebrew podcast listening. If you can fit in a daily podcast during your commute or over breakfast, that’s great. But even three or four times a week can go a long way toward boosting your language abilities.

    3. The Top 10 Hebrew Podcasts for Language Learners

    Boy with Headphones and Radio

    Now that we’ve seen how podcasts can help you learn Hebrew and discussed some of the best ways to use them, let’s check out this carefully curated list of the top 10 Hebrew podcasts for learners. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive; quite the contrary. There is a wealth of podcasts in the Hebrew language on just about every topic under the sun, so consider this a springboard to discovery.

    1. HebrewPod101
      HebrewPod101 Logo with Woman Wearing Headphones

      While we don’t mean to toot our own horn, we at HebrewPod101 diligently work to produce a broad range of podcasts on many different topics. And in our case specifically, we record every podcast episode with Hebrew learners in mind! For this reason, HebrewPod101 can be a great place to start. Our podcasts cover all levels, and they touch on everything from grammar points and vocabulary to general tips for effective learning, Israeli and Jewish culture, and much more.

    1. KAN Hesketim
    Stack of Textbooks

    This is actually not one podcast but a whole range of podcasts put out by KAN, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation. Topics span the gamut from popular culture and current events to the Bible and Jewish history, while individual episodes can be as short as 10 minutes and as long as an hour and a half. This is a great plus, as you can choose a podcast to fit whatever time you have available.

    KAN Hesketim podcasts tend to be somewhat “newsy”: hosts speak in the flowery, clearly enunciated, and rather old-fashioned style typical of mainstream Israeli newscasters. This can be helpful in terms of your comprehension, but, on the other hand, it’s not always representative of how most Israelis actually speak. For this reason, it’s hard to recommend it for a specific level. Rather, try listening to a bunch of different podcasts until you find one that feels comfortable for you.

  1. Mayeshbeze

    Mayeshbeze, or ?מה יש בזה (Mah yesh be-zeh?) in Hebrew, literally means “What’s in it?” but is something more akin to, “What’s this all about?” Described as an “historic-comic podcast series,” it’s hosted by Kobi Melamed and Elad Itzhakian. Each week, they discuss a random true event from history that is in some way comical, strange, and/or hard to believe. For example, one episode deals with the infamous case of Liebeck vs. McDonald’s Restaurants, in which Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s after burning her pelvic region with a cup of its coffee.

    While they use the informal register, the hosts do tend to speak at a fast clip, so this can be challenging for beginner-level Hebrew learners. On the other hand, an extra plus to the podcast is that the hosts typically schmooze about random things for a few minutes before plunging into the historical case on tap for the day—something of a lightweight pregame before the show starts in earnest.

  1. Israel Story
    Israeli Flag

    Israel Story, or סיפור ישראלי (Sipur Yisra’eli) in Hebrew, has been self-described as an Israeli counterweight to This American Life. It focuses on “extraordinary tales about ordinary Israelis” while shying away from divisive issues like politics, making this podcast all about the human angle. Indeed, it strives to portray Israeli life and Israelis with all of the diversity and color that goes with them.

    Stories are told in a fairly casual manner, so as long as you’re comfortable with the host, you don’t have to worry about sesquipedalians or arcana. Just like This American Life, the episodes in this podcast comprise multiple stories linked by a common theme. While the podcast has also been available in English since 2014, in collaboration with Tablet magazine, we recommend you challenge yourself to try it out in Hebrew before you check it out in English!

  1. Reshet Osim Historia
    Open Book

    Reshet Osim Historia, or רשת עושים היסטוריה in Hebrew, means “Making History Network” but it comprises much more than just historically minded podcasts. Like KAN Hesketim, Reshet Osim Historia is a large—according to its own website, the largest—podcast network. You can find an immense range of podcasts in Hebrew on various topics, at different difficulty levels, and of varying durations.

    The offerings are so broad that the website even includes a מדריך הפודקאסטים (Madrikh ha-Podkastim) or “Podcast Guide.” This can help you find just the right podcast for you by providing the name, link, RSS, and category for each podcast it hosts, as well as a brief description. With such a wide selection, you’re sure to find a podcast (or five) that suits you.

  1. Hebrew Podcasts

    This is one of the few Hebrew podcast websites directly aimed at language learners. As such, it offers themed lessons based on things like vocabulary categories or specific grammar points. The site labels each podcast by level, and each podcast comes with additional resources such as flashcards and quizzes. However, unlike the other sites we’ve listed so far, this one is not free but subscription-based.

  1. Hebrew Survival Phrases

    Just as its name suggests, this one is similar to those thin-spined phrasebooks printed for travelers. It offers podcast-style lessons that cover essential words and phrases for use in specific situations and contexts, such as greeting strangers or ordering at a restaurant. Though the Hebrew Survival Phrases podcast does not rank its content by level, the episodes are ordered, meaning you’ll probably get the most out of them if you follow them sequentially. You can either listen to the podcasts right on the website or download them for later.

  1. LearnHebrewPod

    Another educational site, LearnHebrewPod focuses on helping Hebrew language learners with their listening and speaking skills. All the lessons are in podcast format and cover everyday topics like family, travel, hobbies, food, and more. There’s also a separate section focused on teaching Jewish prayers, as well as guides on the Hebrew alphabet.

    The main part of the website centers on podcast episodes that follow an Israeli, Jonathan, around in his daily life, which it uses as an entrée to various learning opportunities in real-life contexts. Note that this is another subscription-based option.

  1. Streetwise Hebrew
    Israeli Shekel

    This Hebrew learning podcast, hosted by Guy Sharett, is a great option if you’re pressed for time and just want to squeeze in a quick Hebrew fix. Episodes are about five to 15 minutes long and focus on one topic, such as a specific word or expression. The podcast centers on idiomatic Hebrew, often illustrated via an interesting or funny anecdote.

  1. Criminal Record Podcast
    Man in Handcuffs

    Last but not least, let’s face it: We all love crime stories. The Criminal Record Podcast, or עבר פלילי (‘Avar Plili) “Criminal Record” in Hebrew, is a series of episodes presented by Israeli criminologist Dana Hilman. Lasting half an hour to an hour, each episode delves into the lurid details of some dark crime past or present, some in Israel and others elsewhere in the world.

    A nice advantage is that the speech used tends to be slow and clearly enunciated for dramatic effect, making it easier to follow along. An additional bonus is that episodes include interviews with people involved in investigating the crimes under discussion.


4. It’s called HebrewPod101 for a reason!

As you can see, podcasts are a fantastic learning aid that can simulate immersion from anywhere. Podcasts cover diverse topics, offer access to real native speakers, and span a broad array of difficulty levels, lengths, and registers. But what all podcasts have in common is that they are on-demand, meaning you can use them whenever and as often as you wish, at your own pace.

HebrewPod101 is called that precisely because we aim to maintain a similar attitude with the materials we offer our learners, most of which are audio-based. We know that learning a language can be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful. Because we offer a range of materials on demand, you can study at your leisure and in the order you see fit. Additionally, you can take the reins as you progress with your own Hebrew learning trajectory, focusing on what you want and skipping whatever is irrelevant or not of interest to you.

And even as you study independently, know that our team of experts is always happy to field your questions and hear your comments. If you have any questions about podcasts or any other aspect of Hebrew learning, please reach out to us. We would love to hear from you.

Until next time, shalom!

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