HEBREW: A COMPLEX AND FASCINATING LANGUAGE
play the guessing game. What tongue almost vanished and was resuscitated, and is spoken today in many corners of the world? No guess?
Here goes another tip: it has no vowels in writing and is read from right to left. Did I make things easier?
Yes, we are talking about Hebrew. More precisely, of Ivrit—transliteration of this language's name—which exists for more than two thousand years.
And despite such long existence, it remained virtually forgotten for over 1700 years.
It was only revitalized in the 19th century to become a modern language.
Today, in addition to its sacred use in Jewish liturgy, it is the official language of 8 million people in Israel.
“Hebrew is one of the languages I master.
I learned to read and write still as a child, since I was alphabetized in a traditional Jewish school in São Paulo; where I moved back, after many years residing in Israel as an immigrant", shares Villi Braverman, a translator of the language.
Already used to people’s curiosity, she adds:
When I’m asked about how it’s like to live in Israel, I say it is very complex and at the same time fascinating, just as the Hebrew language, which is but one of the official tongues of the country.
Most Jews living in Israel migrated from different nations in the last 60 years (both in the period before and after the State was created).
Such diversity means that each person brings with them a different understanding of the language’s construction and pronunciation, which has no vowels in written words and sentences have no connective verbs.
Some words may be written and pronounced the same way and apply to different situations.
E.g., by using the word “shalom", it is possible to start a conversation; answer the phone; approach workers at a department store; greet a friend, say goodbye to a relative after a family dinner and, still, wrap up the same conversation.
In addition, there is also a symbolism behind it that enables to hope and share the greatest of all desires: peace.
The words in Hebrew originate, in general, from a three-consonant root indicating the essence of that word's meaning.
Prefixes and suffixes are added to this root.
A system of symbols, called nikud, represented by short and straight lines, which may or may not appear below that root in written text, indicate its sonority to the beginner—or to those that are not familiar with that word.
Complex and fascinating.
At first it may just seem odd that there are no vowels in writing, but after a while it becomes intuitive for our brain to aggregate the missing vowels.
“Especially when our vocabulary expands.
Until then, in a distinct alphabet, written backwards, finding one's way may not be so simple.
Only after quite some time back in the west I was able to realize the habit of reading magazines starting from the back page!", confesses Braverman.
And to conclude this brief stroll through the enchantments of this tongue, another peculiarity.
The star or shield of David, the higher symbol of Judaism, encompasses the forms of all characters in the alphabet, which facilitates the practice of calligraphy.
That's a feature of the language that's easier to grasp, and perhaps the most fascinating!
To the kore (transliteration of reader in Hebrew), I leave my shalom!