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What’s the difference between a native and fluent Hebrew speaker?

We often get asked what makes someone a Hebrew speaker. Let’s dive into understanding how it’s different.

Working our way to Hebrew fluency at UAB

Let’s start with the dictionary definition - what is a native language, or mother tongue? A native language or first language, is a language that a person has acquired naturally as a child, usually from their parents or primary caregivers.

Yet it doesn’t stop there - there is one main condition for a language to be considered a mother language - that the language is acquired at an early age, typically from birth to age five. This means it’s the first language that a child learns to speak and understand.

Another way a language can be native is if the child learns it in a natural setting, usually in the home or community where the child is raised. It is acquired through social interaction and immersion in the language, as in without formal instruction or structured learning activities. Children learn the language through listening, speaking, and mimicking the language spoken around them, or also watching TV.

Through learning and practice, you too can be fluent in any language.

This is different from fluency, which can be defined as a person who can speak a language with ease and fluidity, without struggling to find words or construct sentences. It suggests a high level of proficiency in the language.

If you’re fluent but not native, you can use the language to communicate effectively in a variety of contexts, including social, academic, and professional settings.

Not a native Hebrew speaker? Don’t worry - you can still reach fluency! If you didn’t speak Hebrew as a child, but now have mastered it to a level of proficient reading and writing, speaking, and listening, then congratulations - you are a fluent Hebrew speaker.

To summaries - a native language is a language that a person acquires naturally during early childhood, through exposure to the language in a natural setting, and without formal instruction or structured learning activities. It is a language that a person is proficient in and is often closely tied to their cultural identity and heritage. Meanwhile, fluency means having a high level of proficiency in a language.

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