Hebrew is an interesting and dynamic language, that is among the oldest in the world. But unless you grew up studying Hebrew, chances are you — like most of the English-speaking world — only know the phrases that have been adopted into popular lexicon, like “mazel tov.”
Here are the top five most fascinating facts about the Hebrew language:
Technically speaking, there are no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet.
The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, and all of them are consonants. For children and early language learners, there are dots that are placed above words that indicate vowels to assist in pronunciation and understanding, but the language itself doesn’t have a single vowel.
Hebrew is one of the original languages of the Bible.
Biblical scholars assert that the original text was available in three languages: Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. And back during the era in which the Bible was written, Hebrew was a widely spoken language. After 200 AD, however, it died out as a spoken language and was used only in writing. It was revived as a spoken language in the 19th century.
Much of what we understand about standard language doesn’t apply to Hebrew.
For example, there is no way to say “to be” in Hebrew. So if you were to write the sentence “He is there” in Hebrew, it would consist only of the words “He” and “there.” Additionally, men and women use different verbs.
The words in Hebrew are slightly different, depending upon who is using them.
So although the meaning of a sentence ends up the same, the words are different based on who is using them. The word for God in Hebrew (Elohim) is actually a plural noun that always takes on a singular verb. This beautiful inconsistency is representative of the unity of plurality in the concept of God in Judaism.
Hebrew is written from right to left.
That one you might have heard before, but the reason for it is pretty interesting. Scholars asserted that Hebrew was written from right to left because, when people where chiseling in stone, they would hold the chisel with their dominant hand — typically speaking, their right one — and it was easier to move the chisel from right to left than from left to right. Hebrew is a genuinely interesting language with a rich history.
With various technological and medical startups calling Israel home, demand for Hebrew translation is increasing.