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Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey Review by Christy SchaeferMary A. Merritt
Recently my teenage daughter and I reviewed Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey by Mary A. Merritt. The purpose of this book is to assist a student in learning to read the Hebrew language by teaching the Hebrew letters and vowels with their sounds, then showing how to make syllables and words from those pieces. The book is designed to teach the very basics of Hebrew and the author encourages the use of other sources to study the grammar and more advanced portions of the language. Although Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey is written for students of all ages, it is geared for more independent use by older students or for homeschool parents to guide their younger children.
Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey is a 117-page book with a full color trade paperback style cover. It's roughly 8 ½ by 11 inches in size and designed as both a text and workbook utilizing color along with black and white pages. The book is published by Olive Press, which is a Messianic and Christian publisher. The book itself has a distinctly religious tone being dedicated to Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Savior, as well as using many Old Testament verses as examples.
Upon receiving the book, the first thing we noticed is that it appears backwards to us. When oriented as we are accustomed, the front cover is actually the book's back cover and even includes a statement to this effect, “This is the back cover. To begin your journey, turn over.” You could consider this is your very first lesson in Hebrew, since the Hebrew language is read from right to left and Hebrew books are oriented differently from books written in Latin based languages. Even though it took a little time to acclimate ourselves to the backwards book, the orientation helps provide a better feel for how the language works.
The organization of information in Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey is logical, allowing for it to be used as a reference in the future. It starts with a course schedule, which we will come back to shortly. Then the book continues with two-page color spreads for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet including a pronunciation guide for the letter, sample words with pronunciation, and Bible verses that use the sample words. After the letters, the book continues with a table of Hebrew look-alike letters, which are rather similar in appearance to each other and can be confusing. This is followed by a pronunciation guide page that explains how to read the letters and samples. Finally, details on the Hebrew vowel system and root verbs are given along with detailed notes on each Hebrew letter.
After the information pages, the book has sections where the student will practice writing letters, reading Hebrew, and then take two types of quizzes. Following the workbook sections are suggested Bible memory verses in Hebrew to be used as assignments. Additional reference pages cover Hebrew numbers, common expressions in both Hebrew and Latin lettering, specifics of the Hebrew “to be” verb, and pronouns. Lastly, answers to the quizzes are included.
Although the book organization makes for an easy- to-search reference, the layout is not conducive for use as an independent lesson book. That is where the course schedule becomes a valuable tool. The very first item in the book is the course schedule, which the author correctly states is necessary for proper use of the book. The lesson plans create an easy to understand 40-week schedule in which to complete the entire book, however the author does not encourage students to move ahead until they understand and know each lesson well. The plans list assignments by week, and keeps the student moving smoothly through the book by listing out which pages to read, practice writing, specific memory assignments, and quizzes for each week.
My sixteen-year-old daughter, Amber, enjoys studying a variety of languages and is always pushing to learn another. She has been interested in learning Hebrew for a couple of years now, but was too busy concentrating on Greek and German to give Hebrew a closer look. Her long-term plan called for her to begin Hebrew next school year, however she still was unsure if she had enough interest to stick with Hebrew along with her other languages. We decided to use Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey as an introduction to the Hebrew language, and a way to gauge Amber's true interest in the language.
At this point, my daughter has now completed nearly two months’ worth of lessons from Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey. She has been impressed with how well the book explains the pronunciation of the letters and syllables. Honestly, she was concerned about learning a new language without an audio component to help with pronunciation. Amber also has enjoyed learning to correctly write the Hebrew letters and feels she is doing well with the alphabet.
Amber did agree that Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey teaches only very basic Hebrew. There is little to no grammar taught, which confused her a little since she has been accustomed to learning grammar immediately in her other languages. Still, we have both been pleased with the basis in Hebrew this book provides. However, my daughter still has not decided if she will make time for Hebrew in the coming school year. Thankfully, she has quite a bit of Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey yet to complete and help her form an opinion.
Overall, we feel Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey does a fantastic job of fulling its purpose to make understanding the Hebrew language more accessible for students of any age.
-Product review by Christy Schaefer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2018