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The College of Arts Sciences

Course Spotlight: Modern Hebrew at Cornell

By: Ayla K. Cline, 
October 19, 2016

Whether you are preparing for travel abroad or are passionate about achieving fluency in a language that is important to you, when studying Modern Hebrew at Cornell you will be part of a close knit group of students and faculty. Courses offered through the Department of Near Eastern Studies introduce our students to the culture, language and literature of modern Israel. The courses support students at their current level of Hebrew but also focus on continuing the development and enhancement of the student's command of grammar as well as writing, reading, speaking, and comprehension.

Hebrew (or 'Ivrit) is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family, spoken by more than eight million people in Israel and around the world.

Modern Hebrew is a fusion of old and new, native and foreign. Between the end of the Biblical period and the beginning of Modern Hebrew, there exists a gap of roughly two thousand years during which Hebrew was used exclusively as a literary and liturgical language, and was not used as a spoken language. It was taught mostly for religious purposes but had no native speakers.

When the revival of the Modern Hebrew language started towards the end of the 19th century, people soon realized that Biblical Hebrew could not be the sole source for vocabulary needed for modern daily life. A need to supplemental Hebrew vocabulary arose. Vocabulary items that did not exist in the Bible were supplemented by other sources, such as religious texts and medieval poetry. At times, additional sources needed to be created or borrowed and were formed using already existing forms and compiled with the linguistic principles of Biblical Hebrew. 

Each semester, a Hebrew placement exam is conducted in order to place students in the right course level. Contact Nava Scharf for details on how to schedule a placement exam. 

Spring 2016 Hebrew courses:

  • NES 1102 - Elementary Modern Hebrew II
  • NES 2100 - Intermediate Modern Hebrew
  • NES 3104- Advanced Hebrew Through Media and Literature

All courses offered this Spring by the Department can be found here: