Hebrew language

Hebrew ('Ivrit, עִבְרִית ), or 'Ivrit', is part of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asian language family. It is the language of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament of the Christians. Most of the Hebrew Bible, and the Torah which is traditionally believed to have been written in Moses' time 3,300 years ago, is written in classical Hebrew.

Hebrew began to disappear as a spoken language after the Jews were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Spoken Hebrew was replaced by Aramaic, although it remained the language of religion, teaching and literature. Hebrew was reborn as a spoken language in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the form of Modern Hebrew.

It replaced Arabic, Yiddish, Russian and a number of languages spoken by Jews who emigrated to Israel.

Dialects of Hebrew

There are two main dialects of Hebrew.

The Europeanized dialect is spoken by the Ashkenazi Jews of European origins. It is heavily influenced by Yiddish. Today, the Europeanized dialect enjoys greater social prestige and tends to be preferred by most young Israelis.

The Eastern dialect is spoken by Sephardi Jews, whose ancestors came to Israel from Middle Eastern countries. The name "Sephardi" comes from the Hebrew word Sefarad, 'Iberian Peninsula'. These Jews lived in Spain and Portugal from the Middle Ages until their persecution and mass expulsion from those countries in the last decades of the 15th century, when they fled to the Middle East. Eastern Hebrew has many influences from Arabic.

Despite the Hebrew Language Academy's attempts to establish a standard, native Hebrew speakers, who are now in the majority, have created a variety, spoken Israeli Hebrew, that has not yet been systematically described and standardized.

Who speaks Hebrew

Hebrew is spoken by about 5 million people in Israel. This figure includes both native speakers and second language speakers with different levels of fluency.  It became the official language of the British Palestine in 1922. Today, it is the official language of the State of Israel. It is used for official, public and private purposes throughout Israel, with the exception of the Arab area, where Arabic is used. Public schools use either Hebrew or Arabic. However, Hebrew is a compulsory subject up to the tenth grade in all schools, including Arabic schools.

Hebrew is also the vehicular language in universities. It is the language of most newspapers, books, magazines, radios and televisions. Moreover, Hebrew remains the liturgical language of Jews around the world. Other surveys estimate the total number of Hebrew speakers at 9 million, but this figure does not indicate what is meant by "speakers".

Translation agency for Spanish-English-Hebrew

Now that you know a little more about the Hebrew language, you might be interested to know that we offer professional translation services from both English to Hebrew and from Hebrew into English. We specialise in translation from and into Spanish.

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