Modern Israeli Music in Hebrew Class

Second-semester Hebrew is always a pleasure to teach. Sure, the students have usually blunted their edge in the 5-6 weeks since fall session. But they get it back quickly, and things quickly assume the character of an advanced-level course. Any attrition has already taken place earlier in the first term, so there’s a “lean and mean” quality to the student population. And while there are enough new syntactical concepts coming down the pipe to keep them on their toes, morphology has somehow become “no big deal”: Oh, so that’s how we do the Niphal? And guttural still do their thing, and III-still gets bumped of by a suffix? Nûn still assimilating? ’Kay, whatevs.

For the first time, I’m helping the students work through a piece of modern Israeli Hebrew rock music: Rona Kenan, ’לחיות נחון.’ (First semester we spent time on some common prayers and the Torah blessings from the Sabbath liturgy.) We began this week, and I was happy to see that the students were enjoying it.

I had distributed this to them a week or two before, inviting them to give it a listen and to jot down anything they thought they recognized. Here’s Rona Kenan:

Between them, students teased out a lot more than I thought they might. They had already noted:

  • Lots of זה and לא
  • Lots of forms beginning with ל (not having yet learned the infinitive, but correctly equating it with some infinitive forms that I had used informally in earlier sessions)
  • Words and roots like טוב, אהב, אכל, מאוד.
  • Phrases like מִכֹּל, אני רוֹצָה, ביום, בלילה.

Together this week, we took time to work completely through to the 0:21 marker:


זה חשוב לאהוב

ולמדוד את הטוב מזמן לזמן

לא לבקש מה שאי אפשר לקבל

One of the students had earlier gotten turned onto some other pieces (like Shrek and a little Les Mis), and she shared these links with her colleagues.

So, thanks, Rona! The students got a heads-up on the infinitive, and we all got a timely mid-winter change of pace.

How are your classes this term? Are you doing anything to mix it up a little this February?

[Modern Israeli Music in Hebrew Class was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/02/18. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

8 Responses

  1. I like to use Yael Naim.

  2. I used to like using David Broza and Idan Reichel.

    But I feel like I’ve lost touch (as though I really had any!) with new Israeli music.

    How do you find new things like this?

    • I lucked onto Rona Kenan: she sent an Invite to my own YouTube page (presumably because I had already subscribed to a couple of other Israeli artists, including Sarit Hadad). I found I liked pretty much everything she did, and plan to order at least one album from her home site.

      It isn’t easy: putting search terms into YouTube doesn’t yield much, and same with iTunes. Seems like, so far, there’s little enough there that you have to already know who you’re looking for.

      • Very late reply, but whatever.. There’s tonnes of Israeli music on YouTube – just change the artist’s name to its Hebrew form with Google Translate.

        Anyway, I found this page because I want to know what the Hebrew grammar is like in songs vs. in spoken and formal Hebrew. Are songs too informal to be used for instruction?

      • TearyGuy, that’s a good question. In my experience, there can be non-biblical constructions in pop songs (just as in spoken modern), but the pro’s outweigh the con’s. For example, the Rona Kenan song above is *full* of infinitive constructs. After we worked through it, my students never missed an inf. cstr. in the Bible again. And, besides, both the Bible and spoken Modern can get pretty informal; I’ve noticed that “direct speech” in biblical narrative is sometimes troublesome, and suspect that it’s because it intentionally represents the more informal speech of the given character.

      • TearyGuy, you can see this post in its new context at my newer SquareSpace site. There, I have more example of my instructional Hebrew stuff:

      • Sorry, I should have paid more attention. I didn’t realize you were talking about Biblical Hebrew. I was actually wondering about the use of songs to teach modern Hebrew.

  3. I like this style of music although I haven’t heard it before. It is interesting how diffrent cultures express there music and seeing as i love the chart music it is very diffrent to what i am used to listening to.

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