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Hebrew, a language known for over three millennia, is a member of the Semitic language family and a sister language to Arabic and Aramaic. Throughout history, Hebrew has served as the liturgical and literary language of the Jewish people. The spoken language, which fell out of use during the early first millennium, was revived as a modern, vibrant language in the late 19th century, and serves as the official language of the State of Israel. Today, the language is spoken by over nine million speakers, most of them in Israel.
In academia, Hebrew, a less-commonly-taught language, is considered a fundamental building block in programs such as Middle Eastern Studies, Judaic Studies, Theology, and Biblical Archeology. The growth in numbers of Religion/Bible Schools has created a growing demand for training—in 2016, according to the report of the Modern Language Association of America, over 15,000 students in the United States were enrolled in Hebrew language classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels, some 9,500 of them in Biblical Hebrew.
Why study Hebrew at UT Austin?
The Hebrew Program at UT, staffed by experienced and dedicated faculty members, provides resources to those interested in the language and its culture and to those who consider Hebrew instruction as a profession or who wish to pursue an academic career in the fields mentioned above. Most students who complete their language requirement in Hebrew through our intensive year of training reach the intermediate-high language level according to the scale used by ACTFL, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and can comfortably converse with native speakers. They can then continue their studies with upper-division language courses taught at the advanced level, covering topics like media, technology, history, literature, and culture. Students who minor in Hebrew often choose to study abroad at one of Israel’s university-ulpan programs, where they are placed in advanced-level classes.
In collaboration with Texas Hillel, our Hebrew students participate in informal meetings, Café Ivrit, where they can enjoy each other’s company, hone their Hebrew communication skills, and learn about the language as it is used in the popular culture, the military, the market, and the vibrant political arena.Students interested in the Hebrew Bible can fairly easily make a transition to the study of the classical language.
As Israel is considered one of the world’s fastest-growing high-tech economies and a major center for scientific and medical research, students who train in Modern Hebrew have the opportunity to engage with high-tech and other companies where their language skills will be in demand.
|"Intensive Hebrew I" covers all of Modern Hebrew for Beginners by Esther Raizen.
|"Intensive Hebrew II" covers all of Modern Hebrew for Intermediate Students by Esther Raizen.
|"Hebrew Through the Media" introduces students to Hebrew language TV shows and other forms of media.
|"Innovation and Technology in Israel" has students read articles and watch videos in Hebrew about Israeli scientific/technological advances, both improving their language skills and their knowledge of Israel.
|"Hebrew Across Disciplines" pairs with another course of the student's choosing, allowing them to explore material on that course's subject material in Hebrew. May be repeated for credit.
Students with any knowledge of Hebrew (written and/or spoken) are advised to take the placement exam to correctly identify which level of the language they may enroll in. Details on the placement exam can be found here.
Students who want to receive credit for HEB 601C and HEB 611C may take the Credit-by-Exam test. Details on the CBE can be found here.
Oral Proficiency Interviews
Please note that at the end of the 611C course, you may be asked to complete an oral proficiency interview (OPI). Each year Middle Eastern Studies is required to administer OPIs to a pool of randomly selected students, to verify that we are meeting curriculum goals in our first-year language courses. This process is dependent on voluntary student participation. The interviews are extracurricular and will not figure into your course grade, but students selected to participate will receive a notification letting them know their proficiency level in the language. The test is administered over the telephone (or Zoom) and rated by an ACTFL Certified Tester. OPIs can be rated according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 or the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale.