Fiona Leckerman takes a look at Hilarious Hebrew, a new book written by two Israeli ex-pats in the UK who use daft memory cues to make words stick…

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Hilarious Hebrew teaches the language through word associations

Have you heard the one about the two Israelis who found a brand new way to teach Hebrew? When Yael Breuer told her friend Eyal Shavit about the humorous and innovative way she was using word association to teach Hebrew to her students in Brighton, he found it brilliant and began to add to her growing list of sentences. At first they did this just to amuse each other, until that number became too large and the possibility of turning their idea into a book took shape.

This perfectly pocket sized dictionary style book that teaches Hebrew through word associations and is accompanied by very comical illustrations makes it a jolly way to remember and learn a new language. Yael Breuer explains that teaching Hebrew to English speakers is difficult from the outset because “Hebrew bears no relation to English, it’s of a completely different family, the book makes this process easy.”

Published in November 2014, it took two years for Breuer and Shavit to complete. Breuer says, “We thought of each and every sentence for hours to ensure that it was not only entertaining but sounded right too.” Breuer, who had been using this idea for years with her students, said “it brought fun to the lessons. What started as a joke really became our product, our baby.” Setting up their own publishing company Pitango Publishing Breuer describes “We agonised over the look of the book, we wanted to see the whole process, for example it took 4 or 5 illustrators before we found Aubrey Smith, who we knew was the right choice.”

The book cleverly uses sentences in English, with recognisable illustrations, to introduce Hebrew words. For example a witty caricature of Mick Jagger typing on a computer is captioned with the sentence, The Rolling Stones were given a class on how to use a keyboard, Mick led it. The Hebrew word for keyboard is mik’leh’det. In another we see a man zooming in a speeding car, it is captioned The fastest car in the world belongs to Barack Obama. It goes like lightning. And, of course, this is followed by explanation that the Hebrew word for lightning is bah’rak. A seated lady is drawn screaming in pain, her arms waving in the air, there is a fork impaled in her leg; I accidentally stuck a fork in Ma’s leg. Naturally the Hebrew word for fork is mah’zleg.

The humour is quite rightly hilarious and the Hebrew is memorable, making Hilarious Hebrew a must-have learning companion. And if you’re not learning, this book is a great place to start. In the case of Hilarious Hebrew, you really should judge a book by its cover.

Hilarious Hebrew is published by Pitango, £7.99 For more details, visit www.hilarioushebrew.com