Listen to this lesson

The full lesson is available only to Speaking Hebrew: Advanced Course subscribers.

Each of our lessons includes: 3 audio learning sessions, a quiz, and plenty of interactive learning games and reading tutorials.

Try a Free Lesson

Test your level with the audio and video lessons below to decide which of our full courses is best for you!

-or- Sign Up Today


Hebrew Lesson Number 52:

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

The Hebrew we speak today is actually less than 200 years old…but born of the language of Biblical Hebrew. Let’s find out how it came to be…and meet the Reviver of the Hebrew Language.

Introduction to Lesson 52: 

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

Learn Hebrew Pod - Lesson No. 52

Did you know that Hebrew is the only language in history to have returned to regular spoken use after having no native speakers? Between the 3rd Century C.E. and the late 1800’s, Hebrew was the language of prayer and bible study, studied by rabbis and scholars.  

Today over 9 million people speak Hebrew as their mother tongue, and over 4 million more speak it as a second language. 

Eliezer and Hemda Ben-Yehuda

אליעזר וחמדה בן-יהודה

In Learn Hebrew Pod shiur chamishim veshta-im, no doubt we will continue adding to our ability to speak it ourselves!  We will also learn more about one of the central figures responsible for bringing Hebrew back to life: Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, often called the Reviver of the Hebrew Language.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

Reviver of the Hebrew Language

אליעזר בן-יהודה

מחייה השפה העברית

But of course, for a language to be truly alive, reviving it not enough.  How does a language spoken by millions keep up with modern ideas, modern technology, even modern sports?

The Israeli Knesset helped to answer this question in 1953 by creating the Academy of the Hebrew Language--Ha-Akademia Lasafa Ha-Ivrit--as the “supreme institution for scholarship on the Hebrew language.” The Academy is the successor to the Hebrew Language Committee (an organization co-founded in 1890 by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda himself).

Today, the Academy’s main body consists of 23 members and an additional 15 academic advisors, including scholars from the disciplines of languages, linguistics, Judaic studies, and Bible, as well as poets, writers, and translators.

Academy of the Hebrew Language

The Academy creates new Hebrew words, regulates grammar and spelling, and even provides guidance in the development of Hebrew children’s names. Its decisions are distributed in its many publications--including the Lamed Leshoncha (Teach Your Language) pages of new vocabulary distributed to the public in its Akadem newsletter. (See . . . even fluent Hebrew speakers need to study new vocabulary! Smile)

While the Academy’s decisions are binding upon all governmental agencies, including the Israel Broadcasting Authority, they are, of course, not binding upon the public. So every day in Israel, on the streets and in the coffee houses, the daily speakers of this living, breathing language contribute to Hebrew’s constant renewal and growth.

Photos used with permission of The Academy of the Hebrew Language. For more information about the Academy, its daily work, and its many publications and projects, please visit the Academy's website at

Team Conversation from The Lesson

Dan, Jonathan & Liat

Our Advanced Level Hebrew Teachers

Dan: betach, Yonatan - of course, Jonathan, ani me-od esmach lesaper lachem vegam lastudentim shelanu - I would be very happy to tell you and also our students, kzzat yoter alay - a little bit more about myself. kfi she-ata mazzia - as you suggested, hayom asaper kzzat al cha-yay hamikzzo-i-im - today I’ll tell you a little bit about my professional life: lamadeti mischak - I studied acting,  bebeyt hasefer hagavo-a le-omanuyot habama shel Beyt-Zzvi – at the college for stage arts of Beyt Zzvi. me-az shesi-yamti – since I graduated, ani mesachek vemeva-yem - I act and direct. aval ata yodea, Yonatan - but you know, Jonathan, kshepanita elay bahazza-a lehishtatef batochnit shelachem - when you approached me to participate in your program, me-od samachti - I was very happy, mikeyvan she-ani gam oved kemore lesafa vedibur - because I also work as a teacher of language and speech. ani oved im sachkaney teatron -  I work with theater actors,  al hagi-ya nechona shel hasafa ha-Ivrit - on proper pronunciation of the Hebrew language.

Jonathan: ha-emet, Dan - to tell the truth, Dan, kshepaniti elecha lehishtatef batochnit shelanu - when I approached you to participate in our program,  yadati al kach- I knew about that. vegam hayom - and also today,  kshebikashti mimcha lehachin et hatekst lashi-ur- when I asked you to prepare the text for the lesson, yadati sheta-ase avoda tova - I knew that you would do good work, ki ata makir ve-ohev et hasafa ha-Ivrit - because you know and love the Hebrew language.  az… al ma i-hi-ye hashi-ur shelanu hayom – so… what will be our lesson be about today?

Dan: Yonatan, kodem kol toda al hahizdamnut shenatata li - first of all, thank you for the opportunity you gave me, lichtov et hatekst lashi-ur shel hayom - that write the text for today’s lesson, ani me-od ma-arich et ze - I appreciate it very much! lanose shel hashi-ur hayom- for the subject of today’s lesson, bacharti lehosif - I decided to add, al ey-ele dvarim shene-emru bashi-ur harishon shel hatochnit - to some things that had been said in the very first lesson of the program. anachnu nikra tekst shekatavti al Eliezer Ben-Yehuda - we will read a text that I wrote about Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

Liat: Dan, eyze ra-a-yon mezzu-yan - what an excellent idea! Eliezer Ben-Yehuda… mecha-ye hasafa ha-Ivrit - the Reviver of the Hebrew Language! nachon, Yonatan – Right, Jonathan, ata dibarta alav bashi-ur harishon shel dargat hamatchilim - you spoke about him in the first lesson of the Beginner’s Level. hayom kshe-anachnu nimzza-im mamash bitchilat rama chadasha - today,  when we are right at the beginning of a new level, ramat hamitkadmim - the Advanced Level, ze be-emet nishma hachi mat-im - it sounds most appropriate, lachzor velehazkir et ha-ish hame-yuchad haze - to return and remind ourselves about this special man, shebil-adav - that without him… pashut lo ha-inu medabrim be-ota safa - we simply would not be speaking the same language! 

Jonathan: Dan, im ata muchan, anachnu muchanim! - If you are ready, we are ready!  bo-u nishma et hatekst shekatavta lashi-ur haze - Let’s listen to the text you wrote for this lesson.

Dan: ani muchan umezuman, Yonatan - I’m ready and prepared, Jonathan! Liat, tizztarfi elay lakri-a - will you join me for the reading?

Liat: betach Dan, ze i-hi-ye li le-oneg! - of course Dan, that will be a pleasure for me!

Yonatan: yalla, behazzlacha!

Some Grammar from This Lesson:

Hebrew Vocabulary Discussion

Jonthan: meule, toda. Let’s review some notes about a few of our new words. Let’s start with the nickname by which Ben-Yehuda is known.  In Dan’s article it appears in the last sentence:

Dan: hu yadu-a ba-kinuy: “mecha-ye hasafa ha-Ivrit”- He is known by the nickname: “The Reviver of the Hebrew Language”.

מחייה השפה העברית

Jonathan: Let’s take a look at how this expression is formed:

Liat: The first part of it is mecha-ye hasafa. It is of course a contiguity form. A contiguity form is a sort of possessive expression – The reviver OF the language.

The contiguity form is a ‘complete entity’. For specifying the contiguity form as definite, we use the ‘hey’ prefix only on its second half:

mecha-ye safa – language reviver

mecha-ye ha-safa  – The reviver of the language

First Government of Israel on May 1, 1949

Dan: The second part of it describes the language: ha-safa ha-Ivrit – The Hebrew language. This part is comprised of a noun and an adjective, and it, of course, complies with the ‘cheese cream’ rule.

For specifying a noun and its description as definite, we use the ‘hey’ prefix both on the noun and its description:

safa Ivrit  - Hebrew language

ha-safa ha-Ivrit – the Hebrew language

Jonathan: bedi-yuk! And in Ben-Yehuda’s nickname we see the combination of these:

“mecha-ye hasafa ha-Ivrit”

A definite contiguity form that includes an adjective!

Now, let’s talk about the word: Tana”ch.

Liat: Tana”ch is Bible. In Hebrew there is another word for it: Mikra. We can see this word used in Dan’s article as an adjective: Ivrit mikra-it – Biblical Hebrew.

Dan: The word Tana”ch is more commonly used. It is actually an acronym comprised from the initials of the three holy books it contains –



Tora – Torah – we take the ‘taf

Nevi-im – Prophets - we take the ‘nun

Ktuvim – Writings– we take the ‘kaf

The taf, the nun and the letter kaf in its light pronunciation add up to Hebrew’s most famous acronym: Tana”ch.

Jonathan: It is important to note that the Hebrew acronym form can be inflected, as it appears later in the article – mekorot tanachi”im – Biblical resources.

Okay, the last word to be reviewed here is a Hebrew word Eliezer Ben-Yehuda actually invented:

Liat: Before Ben-Yehuda, the word Hebrew used for dictionary was its literal word-to-word translation from German: sefer milim - a book of words.

Dan: In an article he wrote in 1880, Ben-Yehuda explained that the suffix ‘nun’ is often used in Hebrew for" indicating the place in which we can find the concept that is called by that name…"

Liat: mila in Hebrew is a word.

And utilizing the method he described above, Ben-Yehuda created the new word milon, indicating a ‘thing’ or a book which holds inside of it the words of the language.

The word milon sounds quite similar to the fruit melon. In Hebrew, a melon is simply melon. So please pay attention. In the supermarket ask for melon.

Dan: In the library, ask for milon.


*Read and listen to the Full Hebrew Discussion - Join the Learn Hebrew Pod Speaking Hebrew Advanced Program.