The hardest part of learning Hebrew as a second language is the conjugation of verbs.
If you live in Israel and hear Hebrew 14 hours a day either by listening to people talk, listening to the radio, tv, talking to people, learning Hebrew songs you may get by and not learn the formal rules of verb conjugations and… after three years or so you’ll be able to formulate most of the verbs by just hearing them over and over again.
For those of you who do not live in Israel and live and breathe the language every day and all day long, there’s, unfortunately, no short cut. If you’re looking for one and jump from present tense to past tense to future from one family to another without building a sound foundation of the verbs you most likely fall into a dark pit and will be quite frustrated.
In order to have a smooth sailing and easy climb, you have to understand the overall idea behind the verbs and their various families, they way they look and their characteristics. I’ve been teaching Hebrew to all ages for many years noticing the frustrations students expressed when we got to the conjugation of verbs. No matter how well was my teaching, they studied it robotically without understanding the meaning behind each of the SEVEN FAMILIES (I followed the book I was instructed to use). That behooved me to come up with a way that illustrates the characteristics of each family and how to differentiate between regular and irregular verbs for each of the Seven Families (binyanim – בִּנְיָנִים = structures/buildings) to a point where anybody could study and understand it with ease.
I put together all my successful actions in a book called: Hebrew Binyanim Made Easy, The Missing Link I can’t recommend it enough.
Here is what I suggest in learning verb conjugations:
- Start learning the simple conjugations of the Present Tense first. Get the feel of the language and don’t think too much. Just know how to say them.
- Once you speak and know how to form basic Hebrew verbs in the Present Tense, learn how to form the infinitive of each of the groups. At this point, you would want to choose a model, or the book you use may suggest it, such as my series: Speak Hebrew For Real Primer and Beginner level. (Sorry if don’t sound too humble but I DO know that this series is fantastic for building up confidence in conjugations of verbs and more).
- When you know how to conjugate the infinitives now you’re ready for the Past Tense. All you have to know is first: the suffixes (ending) for each pronoun in the Past Tense. Once you got this out of the way, you’ll be learning how to conjugate only the Third Person first (he, she, they), and there’s a reason why you would start with these pronouns. Only after you have learned to conjugate the Third Person, you’ll learn the First and Second Person. If the book is a good book it will teach you the past tense of the easiest family first and only ONE verb that thereafter will serve you as your MODEL.
- Continue to the next group or subgroup the same way. Third Person and then First and Second Persons while remembering to concentrate on the model for each group.
- The book should tell you what makes a verb an irregular verb and how to recognize it. Once you know how to recognize it (it is not too difficult once you get the rules) all you have to do is conjugate the model first and then replace it with the new verb.
It may sound too complicated but if you follow this route you’ll end up winning, and will not be frustrated anymore. Yes, it takes work and a lot of repetition but you’ll be getting a wonderful fishing pole and would not need to resort to more books as you’ll become a professional fisherman/woman.
I wish you good fishing. דַיִג טוב!