Study Abroad Student Handbook
Israel Israel
Center for Global Education

Why Learn a Language?

One of the least-widely spoken Semitic languages, Hebrew is a rare but very important language. With roughly 7 million native speakers, it has experienced extinction and revival as a language. Currently, most speakers are of the Hebrew ethnicity in Israel or Jews who subscribe to Judaism. Hebrew is not widely spoken in the Jewish diaspora; however, it is valuable to those who seek to maintain connections with their Jewish heritage and roots. Early in the adoption of an Israeli land, Jewish officials initiated movements to revive the language so as to renew the Jewish identity. Today, Hebrew is one of the official languages of Israel.

Being fluent in Hebrew has many advantages. When trying to learn other languages in the Semitic family, like Arabic, Swahili and Amharic, having a background of Hebrew is helpful as there are many cognates among this language group. Additionally, Hebrew is the perfect language to learn for those interested in biblical history as the Jewish Bible is written in Hebrew, albeit a much, much older version of it. Learning Hebrew is also great for interfaith activities; if travelling around Israel, it will be beneficial to be equipped with a knowledge of Hebrew to gain access to some tourist sites as well as to enter the occupied Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Hebrew is an asset to those looking to establish themselves as global citizens.

Among the many benefits of acquiring fluency in Hebrew, one advantage of total immersion is that you not only become immersed in the language, but also in Jewish culture and practices. Initial language learning opens up more opportunities to explore the literature, music, art, dance, sports, etc. of Israel. Total immersion also makes you more marketable in the job world, even on an international level. After learning Hebrew, you have an advantage

Since Hebrew is not necessarily in high demand for international purposes

In Israel, you will be able to use and practice Hebrew every day; you will interact with native speakers at every turn. Even a simple task like going to the market becomes a learning experience. You pick-up subtleties, authentic accents and pronunciation, jokes, stories, and local phrases you never would have learned from simply being in a classroom. Most of the time, you find you are learning new things without even trying; simply being surrounded by Hebrew all day and night helps you absorb more than you think.

Aside from the job world, you may also use the Hebrew class credits you earned while abroad to add a major or minor back at your home campus. Each program has its own specific language level requirements. Language requirements range from no prior language instruction in Hebrew, to the highest language level, which is nearly bilingual. Check to see what prior level of Hebrew your program requires, so that you can start or continue learning Hebrew in the U.S.

Read on – Why Study Abroad and find answers how study abroad can affect your personal growth and career path.

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