Faking Hebrew for Beginners


One of the best ways to develop an appreciation for the uniqueness of the Hebrew language is to play Hebrew Scrabble.

Yes, Scrabble. You see, many Hebrew words are simple–variations on three-letter roots, with prefixes, suffixes, and vowels crammed into the middle. Modifying a word in Hebrew can be like adding an “s” to a word in English Scrabble. Only, instead of simply pluralizing the word, you might be putting it into past or future tense, shifting the subject, or changing the entire context of a sentence…from “I cooked” to “I cooked him” with a single letter change.

And this language fun is also why the new Hebrew version of Bananagrams is so addictive–and so fascinating. Bananagrams, for the uninitiated, is a board game without a strict board. It’s like Scrabble, but it moves quickly, and the tiles can spread in any direction. Players make and constantly modify their own crossword boards. Put simply: the game can go anywhere.

Not only that, but it’s also good practice for less-than-fluent Hebrew speakers who want to put their nascent vocabulary into action. Or, if you get dealt a really bad hand, you can always put together a random combination of letters, pronounce them with your best fake Israeli accent…and hope that the other players don’t have better knowledge of Hebrew than you do.

Recommended from JTA