Q&A: Is it best to start with the “alef-bet” when learning Hebrew?

That’s how it’s normally taught at ulpanim (HSL—Hebrew-as a Second Language—schools)—but to my mind, that’s a bit like teaching car mechanics to someone who wants to learn to drive. There’s little point in learning the tools when you don’t know what function each of them serves.

SimHebrewCourse-Logo.pngIn general, when teaching a new subject to someone, one should always teach the problem—then the solution. Not the other way round.

Which is why in my Hebrew teaching classes, we dive straight into whatever material the student really want to engage in in the end:

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What words are dying in the English language?

Fun question. Off the top of my head (I might add to these later):

In the UK:

  • gaol (in favour of jail, or prison)
  • hiccough (in favour of hiccup)
  • society (since Margaret Thatcher)
  • hospital (in favour of trust)

In North America:

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The importance of rhythm (or why Trump won the elections)

This is a very topical question, which I happened to touch upon in a recent post of my Hebrew blog, as it concerns the importance of rhythm in language .

Trump clearly twigged many years ago that the characteristic meter of English speech is the trochee (an element comprising a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one)—as in the words mother, father, daughter, other, Anglo-Saxon, etc.—and that native English speakers subconsciously prefer it, and short Anglo-Saxon English words, to the meters and long words of other origin. He’s been exploiting this to pitch sales and close deals ever since.

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What is known about the Phoenician language?

It’s important to note that the Phoenicians didn’t self-identify as such, but were simply called that by the Greeks—possibly because they were best known for selling purple-red dye (in Greek, phoinos) which was highly sought after because it was the colour of royalty in ancient Greece.

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