Speaking Hebrew or Arabic in Israel

Hi everyone,

It is widely agreed that speaking Hebrew or Arabic is essential for a successful integration in Israel. Do you agree? Share your experience!

Do you speak Hebrew or Arabic? If so, where did you learn this language? Where can one attend a language course in Israel?

If not, how do you cope with daily activities? Is it easy to communicate in a different language with Israelis?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Well like in all countries, if you know the language, you are much better off.

If you live in TLV, then yes, you can probably get away with never having to learn Hebrew, but even when calling companies I have a really difficult time & I know basic Hebrew.

Most Israelis don't know English or don't want to speak it, or if they tell you they know it, it becomes clear to me quickly that they don't know it.

If you are communicating with people in the IT industry, the odds of finding someone who speaks fluent English is much higher, especially because they watch English TV shows.

But let's remember that it's not just about the language, but about culture too.

I can laugh at something someone said b/c I think they are funny, & an Israeli will ask me what's so funny as if I'm doing something wrong.

The culture is VERY different here. I almost never understand their sense of humor & vice versa & I'm very logical & they aren't, so it makes it tough for me.

But saying that, I haven't communicated with tons of Israelis since I've been here other than when I speak to call centers & from what I've heard, the people who work at call centers aren't known for their intellect. That's Israelis saying that, not me. I have that problem even when I call American or English call centers.


Like learning2016 said, knowing the local language and culture (and they're intertwined) makes life much easier but of course it requires time, patience and motivation.

Israel is a four-language country: Hebrew, Levantine Arabic, Russian and English (of course there are a lot of other languages connected to the emigration area of "olim" or of their family). Also, the speakers distribution is very dependent on the area although the overall majority is of course Hebrew.

In the north you can easily get the feeling that it's something like 40% Hebrew, 30% Arabic and 20% Russian, with English a minority language except for IT and technical/scientific or anyway international businesses and organizations. Unless you live in Tel Aviv I can warmly recommended to seriously study Hebrew and if you care about really integrating I recommend studying it no matter what; no matter what they'll tell you it'll take 1+ years to get to a level that will allow you to manage most of the time in most daily situations so get a refill of patience and resilience.

Israelis are very willing to help but not always able to as it's not easy to teach a language for a non-professional. If you can afford time-wise a 4+-hours class every day my suggestion is to join a good Ulpan (intensive practical study courses lasting a few months that you can find in all cities) or study seriously (1+ hours per day) alone with the necessary help of native Hebrew speakers (better if close people like family/friends).

Duolingo and Memrise have Hebrew courses and there is a lot of material on the Internet, plus radio, TV, colleagues and daily practice will help you learn. You'll also need some coursebook and I found the Rutledge ones quite good. Try hard to accept the discomfort and immerse yourself in the language as much as you can because this will make you learn much faster.

Thank you Circlespainter for your advice, it was really useful.

I first started learning Hebrew just by listening, when a tourist visiting two years in a row between the ages of six and eight years of age, with my family, but that was not very effective, as became evident when my parents, and brothers, and I, finally emigrated from England (as other native English speakers will understand, fully) because the Hebrew language is a difficult language to learn, compared to those languages that have more in common. I began speaking Hebrew, only after weeks of lessons, on an Ulpan, called Ulpan Akiva, founded by Shulamit, of blessed memory in Netanya, who loved to integrate not only Jewish immigrants, but Arabic-speaking Arab-Israelis, as well, and BOTH languages were portrayed in a positive light, and I became friendly with one such person, and started learning Arabic from her, with joy! Both are Semitic languages, and share quite a number of common 'roots' in different words. They're both written from right to left, as is Persian that has letters quite similar to the Arabic language. I think that with "perfect-practice" you can get better at anything you apply yourself to! What helps is if you have friends who support you along the way, and those who might be willing to correct your mistakes. I learned the hard way by being ridiculed from fellow classmates, as a child, for I used to come up with funny things (being creative) and they sounded definitely wrong, grammatically, but the same would apply, if a foreigner were learning the English language. My advice if you wish to learn a language more swiftly, is to learn it through laughter! Having fun while you learn, and finding the amusing elements, stays in the memory much longer, and is more stimulating to the brain. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Laughter is, and should be universal, and joy is a blessing. My wishes to everyone is to be happier. Why? No matter how happy you are, you can always be happier! Right? Smile!!!!!!!!!

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