Speaking up for Hebrew at language festival

By Jessica Elgot, March 10, 2011

Hebrew will be a prominent part of the UK's biggest language festival, starting today at Sheffield University.

Biblical Hebrew, Hebrew script and modern Ivrit are on offer for 40-minute sessions as part of 150 languages and dialects from Esperanto to Braille.

Jasmine Woods will teach ancient Hebrew and Israeli Yael Benn, 37, a psychology researcher at the university, will teach modern Hebrew and script.

Ms Benn said: "I'm going to teach people how the language works and its history. We'll also learn about how it sounds.

"Most people know about the 'ch' sound, but they will need to roll their 'rrr's. There will be lots of throaty noises going on. It's just to give a flavour of the language."

She had heard about the festival through her synagogue, Sheffield and District Reform. "I think it's a great idea. I'm delighted to be involved."

The weekend festival has been organised by students at Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities.

Despite the presence of many Arabic dialects, including Palestinian, Hebrew has been classified as a "European" language by the festival's organisers.

One language conspicuously absent from the festival of languagues is Yiddish.

Ms Benn said: "I don't think they have been able to find a Yiddish speaker nearby. But it's a shame. I would have liked to have learnt that myself."

Last updated: 12:52pm, March 10 2011