I made aliyah with my five kids almost four years ago, and while my Hebrew was “good,” I still lacked the same language level as native speakers. My kids had a big transition ahead of them, and there were quite a few methods that I employed to help them accelerate their language learning.
They had one thing going for them: full immersion.
Living in Israel means that my children had the ability to be fully immersed in the Hebrew language. Immersion is a quick way to learn a language, but I wanted to encourage my kids to learn faster while also maintaining their English language skills.
I did a few things to help my kids and I master Hebrew.
First, I got the entire family involved.
Everyone needs to be on the same page. Kids will learn and pick up a lot from their parents, so I made sure to say as much as I could in Hebrew. But I also tried to make it fun by:
- Singing songs
- Reading children’s books
Watching television together was a lot of fun, too. As any Hebrew speaker knows, pronunciation is a huge part of the Hebrew language, and learning requires a massive amount of resources. We used Kodi to watch material that wasn’t on television.
And I watched a lot of kid-related programming.
I also made it a point to read to my children in Hebrew every night. Often, I would have them repeat the words I said to help them form and build their pronunciation further. I also found that by doing this, my kids were able to retain information better, too.
When one child had a favorite story, he seemed to retain the information much better.
Again, use a lot of material to find what sticks for your child. They’ll learn a lot in school and by making friends, but the transition is easier for kids when they’re exposed to a plethora of material already.
I went a step further. I decided to note every word that my child forgot or had difficulty saying. And then I used flashcards and Anki to help with spaced repetition.
I also started doing all of this well before the transition to Israel. I wanted to give my children a foundation that they could use and grow from. If I hadn’t done this, they may have been lost when they came to Israel.
It’s much harder to date natives and “fit in” when you can’t speak the language.
But I also learned that reading the news was difficult. Your vocabulary is limited, and it is more news-centric than it is realistic. You’ll know a lot of words relating to scandals and politics, but you’ll also miss words relating to emotions and food – among many other topics.
My learning experience may not have been as vast as my children’s learning experiences, but it was still an intense time to learn more about Hebrew. I even went as far as hiring a babysitter to help speak Hebrew with my kids and me.