Culture And Background
It is perhaps unsurprising that Hebrew is one of the most popular languages of choice in the Middle East and beyond. Whereas a great deal of other ancient languages, such as Latin, have long since faded into obscurity, Hebrew is a diverse and resilient tongue, whose origins can be famously traced as far back as biblical times. These include the Exodus of the Jewish people and birth of their sacred bible, the Torah. Nowadays Hebrew, or the Holy Language as it is referred to by the Jewish community, is still very much alive and kicking. However, as is necessary for the revival of a language which began in the biblical era, a great deal of other phrases from English, Arabic and even Yiddish have permeated the language of Hebrew. As it is still spoken in many parts of the Middle East, such as Israel, learning a few basic Hebrew phrases is a very important task for travellers and tourists alike. Here are few simple phrases to assist you on your journey into the diverse world of the Hebrew language.
Let’s begin with the very bare essentials: greetings. For ease of understanding, the phonetic translation of each Hebrew phrase is included, as opposed to the complicated Hebrew alphabet, of which the difficulty is perhaps inaccessible to many beginners and casual speakers of the language. Note: Phrases of address, such as posing a question, will change based upon the gender of the person you are speaking to. These are marked as ‘to M’ or ‘to F’ when it is appropriate.
Good Day! yom tov!
How’s it going? (Familiar) ma nishma?
Excuse Me… (When asking for help) slicha…
Of course, once you’ve greeted someone, a few more phrases will no doubt come in very useful. This next section covers introducing yourself, and being introduced to the speaker:
What’s your name? ma shimcha? (To M)
ma shmech? (To F)
My Name is (Jack) shimi (Jack)
How are you? ma shlomcha (To M)
ma shlomech? (To F)
I’m very well, thank you! tov toda
I’m OK/ So So… kacha kacha…
And how are you? veata?
Where do you come from? meyefo uta? (To M)
meyefo ut? (To F)
For the next sections, let’s go over a few more general phrases which are useful in almost any situation:
Stop/ that’s enough! chalas!
Thanks a lot! toda raba!
Please beva kasha
No problem en ba’aya
Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the more familiar or slang expressions one can use to really show off a little abroad:
Well done! kol hakavod!
Come on / Move it! yalla!
A Challenging and Diverse Language
In any conversation in Hebrew, it is of course important to always remain civil and respectful. When using slang other than the relatively harmless phrases above, it is vital to make sure that one is offensive to others, as this can often be met with more hostility than one might expect in the Occident. Hebrew can sometmes be a challenging and frustrating language to learn due its sheer complexity but, armed with these simple yet practical phrases, being understood should not be an issue. But above all, have fun learning Hebrew!