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Hebrew language facts for kids

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(Redirected from Hebrew)
עִבְרִית ʿIvrit
Pronunciation [(ʔ)ivˈʁit] - [(ʔ)ivˈɾit]
Native to Israel, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria; used globally as a liturgical language for Judaism
Native speakers 5.3 million  (1998)
Language family
  • Semitic
    • Central Semitic
      • Northwest Semitic
        • Canaanite
          • Hebrew
Writing system Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew Braille
Official status
Official language in  Israel
Regulated by Academy of the Hebrew Language
האקדמיה ללשון העברית (HaAkademia LaLashon HaʿIvrit)
Linguasphere 12-AAB-a
Israel in Hebrew
"Israel" written in the Hebrew alphabet.

The Hebrew language is a Semitic language. It is the language of the Jews. The Academy of the Hebrew Language is the main institution of the Hebrew language.

The language was spoken by Israelites a long time ago - during the time of the Bible. After Judah was conquered by Babylonia, the Jews were taken captive to Babylon and started speaking Aramaic. Hebrew was no longer used as much in day-to-day life, but it was still known by Jews who studied religious books.

In the 20th century, many Jews decided to make Hebrew into a spoken language again. It became the language of the new country of Israel in 1948. People in Israel came from many places, and decided to learn Hebrew, the language of their common ancestors, so they could all speak one language. However, Modern Hebrew is quite different from Biblical Hebrew, with a lot of simplified grammar and loanwords from other languages, especially English.

In order to read the Bible in its original language, one must learn Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic and Koine Greek.

Hebrew is a lot like the Arabic language. Hebrew words are made by combining a root with a pattern. In Israeli Hebrew, some words are translated from European languages like English, French, German, and Russian. Many words from the Old Testament were given new meanings in Israeli Hebrew. People learning Hebrew need to study the grammar first in order to read correctly without vowels. In Israeli Hebrew, there is no verb "to be" in the present tense, only in the future and the past tenses. In Biblical Hebrew, there are no tenses but only two "aspects": imperfect and perfect. The imperfect is something like the future and the present tenses. The perfect is something like the past tense. Mishnaic Hebrew is the Hebrew spoken as well as Judeo-Aramaic in the time of Jesus and in the time of the Bar-Kokhba revolt (2nd century AD), until the Byzantine Empire of Justinian (6th century AD).

The Hebrew alphabet has been adapted to write Yiddish, another of the Jewish languages. But Yiddish sounds different from Hebrew as it comes from the same family as German.


The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. Five of these letters change when they are at the end of a word. The Hebrew language is read from right to left. The Hebrew alphabet is an abjad which means that only the consonants are written out and the reader must supply the vowels himself. Since this is pretty difficult, the vowels can be marked as dots called niqqud (plural niqqudim). In Modern Hebrew, some letters can denote vowels. These are called matres lectionis (mothers of the reading) as they help the reading a lot.

Aleph Bet Gimel Dalet He Waw Zayin Heth Teth Yodh Kaf
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ
Lamed Mem Nun Samekh Ayin Pe Tsadi Kuf Resh Shin Taw
ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת
ם ן ף ץ

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