Can’t recall that the Hebrew word for lightning is “barak”? Yael Breuer and Eyal Shavit have the perfect solution for you. Just remember: “The fastest car in the world belongs to Barack Obama. It goes like lightning.”
Breuer – born in Israel but currently living in Brighton, England – has been helping students learn Hebrew with such sentences for over two decades. “They’re silly,” she admits, “but that’s why they’re so fantastic. These kind of ridiculous, funny little sentences just stay in your mind and you remember the word.”
Several years ago, Breuer met Shavit at a gathering of Israeli ex-pats in Brighton and told him about her “silly” sentences. The two soon began composing and exchanging additional sentences for fun, and before they knew it, they had enough material for a book. In 2014, they published Hilarious Hebrew: The Fun and Fast Way to Learn the Language, containing mnemonics for 235 Hebrew words alongside playful illustrations.
“I think it’s a very enjoyable and valuable book,” said Shavit, who is a musician by profession. “It really turns people on to learning Hebrew.”
Mnemonics are especially helpful for English-speakers studying Hebrew, Breuer said, because “there’s no common ground between the languages. It’s not like if you’re Italian learning Spanish or French, where all these languages are connected. It’s completely alien. So, by using this method, the words actually stick in your mind.”
Breuer said she recently bumped into a student she taught 22 years ago. When she asked her if she remembered her quirky sentences, the student replied, “Are you kidding me? These sentences are going with me to the grave!” and immediately cited one of Breuer’s oldest creations: “That’s a lovely house! I think I’m going to buy it” – bayit being the Hebrew word for house.
With Hilarious Hebrew now in its third printing, Breuer said she is unsure whether she and Shavit will collaborate on a volume two. The duo, however, occasionally post new mnemonics on their book’s Facebook page and Twitter account. One of their most recent, she said, is “I really feel like going to Bali” – “ba li” being slang for “I feel like.”
Additionally, Breuer said the pair are assisting a French woman who approached them about composing a similar book for French speakers. “Someone suggested we do a Chinese one. So who knows?” Breuer said.
In the meantime, the two are enjoying the positive response their work has received – the Jewish Agency in London liked it so much that it gave the book to new olim last summer as a gift, Breuer said – and continue to compose additional mnemonics.
“We are making up new sentence all the time,” Breuer said. “We can’t help it basically.”
For more information, visit www.HilariousHebrew.com.Elliot Resnick