Hebrew with Teacher Mike

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In our most recent episode of the Foreigncy podcast, we spoke with the founder of the Hebrew language learning website and Youtube Channel Hebrew with Teacher Mike. We had a great conversation about his journey mastering Hebrew, the methods he’s adapted for his own students, and the importance of learning and using non-violent communication in Hebrew. Below are the top five highlights from our conversation. Note that these are summaries of our conversation and not direct quotes:

The origins and mission of Teacher Mike:

My Hebrew business is a culmination of all the things I learned, some gently and some not so gently as I taught myself and I wanted to pass those learnings on to others in order to create the smoothest learning experience for them as possible. The business has a big focus on conversational Hebrew, such as the main skills of understanding conversational Hebrew and being able to express yourself in a conversational way.

As an immigrant in Israel, how crucial is it to be able to speak Hebrew like an Israeli both from a social and general quality of life standpoint?

I think it’s crucial. Moving to a country can be a huge decision and a huge emotional roller coaster. When moving to a new country you have to rebuild your life and not being able to connect with people through the language is really substantial.

What are some of the shortcomings that you’ve seen as a Hebrew teacher in traditional Hebrew programs?

I think they are very grammatically structured. The traditional methods of teaching Hebrew rely on grammar as the skeleton of instruction, and I do think it’s important to teach grammar. But grammar is not the centerpiece of what I do and how I approach the language.  My centerpiece is conversation and understanding spoken Hebrew.  As we begin to converse in my lessons, we will come to grammar inevitably, but only to the point that it fulfills the purpose of conversing.

How important is it to approach Hebrew language instruction from a life- and age-relevance standpoint?

I think that’s a really important point. Enough studies that I’ve been exposed to and read have said that our memory is enhanced if what we’re learning is relevant to our lives. You need to make the language relevant and focus the vocabulary and even the grammar on what we’re doing in our lives.

How were you able to pick up the language quickly?

I was quite ruthless with myself to put myself in immersive environments where I’d  be surrounded by the language. I looked for opportunities where I’d be surrounded by Hebrew and forced to speak it.

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