Biblical Hebrew, Modern Israeli Hebrew, Learning Vocabulary

I’m aware of the idea that books exist that list the most popular vocabulary of the Bible in order of frequency.  I’m not aware of an up to date list of the same for Modern Israeli Hebrew.  The most recent frequency list of popular modern Hebrew words must be well over 40 years old!  In terms of the modern Israeli language of Hebrew that’s the equivalent of millenia!  I say this because although I don’t know the number, to the best of my knowledge new words are entering the Hebrew world literally every day….and I’m sure that there are experts who indeed can give a close approximate of the number of words entering the language per year.

My opinion in learning Hebrew language and probably most other languages too is that except for a really rare learner, that vocabularly lists of popular words is not the way to go.  What helps most of us to remember new vocabulary is the usefulness or utility of knowing the word.  Speaking for myself, if I’m never going to use the word again, even in the very same text in which I first saw it, I’m not likely to remember the word.  And on the contrary, when I learn Chumash (the 5 Books of Moses) in Hebrew, I remember almost every word because I’ve been learning and re-learning the exact same book for over 40 years in a serious way.  It’s the exact same with Modern Israeli Hebrew.  If I read a newspaper or a novel and discover a new word, I find that that very same word is likely to appear again, in a similar text.  I may also hear that same word in a radio show or a conversation- that’s utility!

So what do I suggest to those who want to learn Biblical Hebrew or Modern Israeli Hebrew?  I suggest that first and foremost you learn dictionary skills.  You can even use an app or Google today.  You’ll be well served if you have some insights into what you’re looking for.  More on that in the upcoming post.

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