Brutally Honest And Detailed HebrewPod101 Review
- Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW
Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
- Plenty of varied lesson content
- High quality Hebrew lesson podcasts
- Lower quality video lessons
- Lesson navigation could be improved
HebrewPod101 have maintained a good level of consistency with their lesson quality, and the 'Learning Library' feature is an enormous improvement to lesson navigation. Overall, it may be the only option for anyone learning Hebrew online.
I’ve studied Hebrew extensively, and took several years of Biblical Hebrew in college.
It was one of the most rewarding languages I’ve ever learned. 🙂
The problem is, for both modern and ancient Hebrew, the options for online courses and Hebrew resources are still quite limited.
Most of the Hebrew I learned was through conventional textbook study and rote memorization (tedious!). There were basically zero reliable Hebrew resources when I started.
So Innovative Language’s HebrewPod101, a podcast style audio course for the modern variety, was a welcome change.
What I like about HebrewPod101 is that it suits a whole range of learners from absolute beginner level right up to advanced and is delivered in both audio and video format.
I sent some questions over to Innovative Language a while back. Here are the responses I received:
On HebrewPod101’s methodology:
Innovative Language believes in practical expressions, aligned to CEFR proficiency levels, in the natural context of native speech. Most lessons, then, begin with a dialogue in which a language skill is introduced in context. The rest of the lessons then go on to talk more about the cultural context in which the dialogue takes place, and the key vocabulary, phrases, morphology, and syntax that allow the learner to carry out the particular language task.
I’m a firm believer in this approach personally.
HebrewPod101 focuses on real language and grammar instruction is minimal.
I then asked about the freedom that HebrewPod101 teachers use for lesson creation:
The native speakers who create the content have a lot of freedom to choose what they teach, though we have a few standard series, such as Survival Phrases, that teach roughly the same kinds of expressions across all of our languages.
Innovative Language lessons are aligned to CEFR levels, and we typically ask that teachers try to teach to a standardized set of internal ‘Can Do’ statements when preparing the dialogues and the grammar and vocabulary information.
This means that while most Innovative Language courses follow a similar structure early on, the majority of the content is unique to a Hebrew-learning audience and not “cookie-cutter”.
HebrewPod101 audio lesson style
The audio lessons in HebrewPod101 are presented in English with Hebrew lesson dialogues.
As it uses a podcast style delivery, the lessons generally consist of quite a lot of conversational banter in English which can be a little annoying to listen to in my opinion. It sounds very scripted at times!
For me personally, I prefer to get straight into Hebrew vocab and dialogue.
So if you’re like me then you can easily skip the English banter and select just the Hebrew audio.
You have the option of selecting ‘Line-by-line Audio’ or ‘Vocabulary’ to listen to specific parts of the Hebrew dialogue (with the English translation).
One beautiful thing about these lessons is that they are downloadable.
What this means is that you theoretically have the option of downloading the entire course content without having to renew your subscription. This is a rare feature these days.
You aren’t restricted to online use only as you are with some online courses (you own what you pay for in other words!).
In the audio lessons, you can record your voice and compare it with the native speaker audio material (rather than use their Premium Plus correction service).
While I’m not a big fan of this method for pronunciation help (I’d prefer to use italki), it’s definitely helpful for some people.
HebrewPod101’s lesson structure
One of the biggest problems with resources like HebrewPod101, like other editions of the Innovative Language series, is the tendency for messy, unstructured lessons.
I feel that they’ve managed this well with Learning Paths.
This is a way of grouping together lessons into topics, goals or areas of interest so you can follow a more linear path in your learning.
They’ve basically grouped lessons into modules.
Just to give you an example, they currently have an intermediate module named Must-Know Hebrew Social Media Phrases which contains 25 lessons. You can either complete modules according to your interests or move through them sequentially.
I’ve noticed some great feedback from people on this Learning Paths feature and I think it’s a welcome change.
HebrewPod101 allows you to choose your own path with lots of options
Since the HebrewPod101 dashboard can be quite overwhelming (there is such a thing as too many features!) the Lesson Library feature that you can find under ‘Lessons’ is probably the best place to start.
Because the modules under Lesson Library provide more structure, it may suit most learners who don’t feel comfortable with self-directed learning.
It is optional of course for learners like myself who feel limited by imposed structure.
The material isn’t necessarily in ascending order of difficulty however as you’d expect them to be, even if you decide to follow HebrewPod101’s Learning Paths. They’re grouped together by topic rather than difficulty.
Lessons range from Introduction (covers some absolute basics as well as cultural information that may interest some people) through to Advanced (unfortunately not a whole lot of lesson content at the highest level).
You can select either audio or video lesson content.
The good thing about HebrewPod101 is that lessons are thematic based on authentic situations you’d encounter in Israel (rather than just grammar points).
While the content in HebrewPod101 isn’t quite evenly distributed across the different difficulty levels (there’s far more lower level material than there is for intermediate-advanced), there’s definitely plenty to keep most people busy for a long time.
Video lessons in HebrewPod101 range from great to downright terrible
Like some of the other Innovative editions, the HebrewPod101 videos could be better.
The videos by Yaara are by far some of the best Hebrew videos available including on YouTube but there’s just an insufficient amount of them.
There are some other videos that are very low quality in my opinion (including quite a few cringeworthy marketing videos on their YouTube channel).
It’s clear that they’ve just created video slideshows with an audio track so I’m not really sure if I’d call them “video lessons”. They belong in the audio lesson category.
There are dozens of videos by the Israeli host Yaara that are great quality.
That’s still a fairly decent amount of lesson material to be fair.
Other features in HebrewPod101
One note on the PDF lesson notes:
They’re very thorough and clearly had a lot of work put into them. In fact, the HebrewPod101 written lesson notes are some of the most comprehensive I’ve seen anywhere.
I’d recommend printing the material and keeping it for reference after your subscription is ended.
Like I intimated above, there is such a thing as having too many features.
HebrewPod101 has so much to offer that it can be overwhelming. It’s also the case that not all of it is very useful.
Take for instance the grammar section.
It’s quite insufficient – just a simple page of text with summary points on Hebrew grammar.
You could find more useful information online for free with a simple search!
But thankfully, explicit grammar instruction is not what HebrewPod101 aims to do anyway.
There are 20 decent lessons that cover the Hebrew Alphabet too which I think do a pretty good job.
There are other features for Premium Plus members such as the My Teacher Messenger where you can request assistance with Hebrew directly from an Hebrew native teacher. I admit I haven’t tried this but again, I would prefer to use italki for this anyway.
I also recommend combining their word bank (in-built dictionary feature) with the in-built flashcard app they have and you have a very handy tool for memorizing words and phrases outside of the lessons.
Is HebrewPod101 worth the money?
HebrewPod101 is without doubt the best available online course for Hebrew.
If you’re learning Biblical Hebrew, you’ll still find it helpful as the gap between ancient and modern Hebrew isn’t huge.
For the earlier levels, there’s a tonne of good content that will keep low-level learners busy for a while.
Advanced: not so much.
There’s a lot of consistency in topics covered in the Beginner levels, but you’ll find that the Hebrew teachers exercise a lot of freedom in the higher level content.
This means that the content becomes really disorganized.
The Learning Library feature definitely improves this however and helps to structure the content.
Overall I’d recommend creating a trial account before laying any money down (create a trial 7 day account right here).
Definitely don’t skip italki either.
Used HebrewPod101 before? Comment below!
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