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Think a private Hebrew tutor will get you up to speed? Not necessarily

One of the biggest myths of learning a second language is that a private teacher will help you learn faster than a group setting, especially with speaking. The time has come to bust this myth before you pull the trigger on buying private lessons.

Learning Hebrew in a group is a lot more productive than one-on-one teaching.

One of the things that we really respect at UAB is the desire of Olim Hadashim and immigrants to Israel to learn Hebrew as quickly as possible. But this is the origin of the problem. Over the years, myths have emerged regarding the issue of Hebrew private tutoring, or private tutoring for learning a second language in general. One of them is that learning Hebrew in a university, a trend that has already been debunked, is not very effective. Now we’re busting a new myth - that private tutors really help.

As an institution that has taught Hebrew as a second language for many years, we heard from several students that they decided to move to private teaching, since “it’s the only way to improve quicker.” Honestly, this is a mistake. The first reason is due to the fact that with a private teacher, you’re exposed to the same level of conversational Hebrew for the most part. The teacher (if they know what they’re doing) will adjust their language level to the student’s, and it will stay that way for a lot of the classes.

Speaking with students in a classroom, regardless of their level, prepares you for conversations in Hebrew.

Despite this, in the classroom, even if we’re talking about a small group of up to 10 students (like we do at UAB), the student will strengthen an important technique that’s critical to advancing in learning a language: To listen to a conversation that’s happening in class and get involved. Moreover, in a classroom, even with students on the same level, there is still a difference between levels. Students learn from each other, not just the teacher - and progress is faster, especially in terms of speaking.

Truthfully, we understand where this myth comes from. Many Olim Hadahshim join the state-funded public Ulpanim. There, the classes are very large, with the average number of students being 30-40. It’s not exactly possible to learn to speak in such a large group, not to mention the outdated teaching curriculum. Therefore, it seems sensible to new immigrants that a private teacher will help them advance. But no - it just seems like they made it to the right Ulpan.

It also needs to be said that most private teachers do not have formal education in teaching Hebrew, and also didn’t teach in an Ulpan. Therefore, they don’t know the correct and ideal teaching style for a student learning a new language. Most of them are Hebrew speakers at a native level that decided to teach Hebrew. Don’t misunderstand us - we are totally for as many people teaching Hebrew as possible, but if your teacher doesn’t know how to explain the difference between “אנחנו” and “אנו,” or why we say “בבוקר” (baboker), and what the difference is between “לפגוש” and “להיפגש”, you should probably look for a different teacher.

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