Welcome to the Hebrew program at USC, which is run by faculty in the Louchhheim School for Judaic Studies at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Whether you are interested in Hebrew courses to satisfy your language requirement or because of personal or professional interest, you will find what you need at USC.
Hebrew is an ancient Semitic language. The earliest Hebrew texts date from the second millennium B.C.E., and the Jewish Bible was written in Hebrew. Evidence suggests that the Israelite tribes who conquered and settled Canaan spoke an early form of Hebrew. After Jews were exiled from the Land of Israel in the 6th century B.C.E., Hebrew began to disappear as an everyday vernacular, though it was still preserved as the central language for Jewish prayers and holy texts and as a lingua franca among Jewish communities around the world.
In the 19th century, Jews from European and Middle Eastern countries revived Hebrew as a modern spoken and written language. Hebrew is now the official language of Israel, with 8 million speakers around the world. Israel is an amalgam of ancient and modern, East and West, religious and secular, conservative and liberal – a society that is vibrant, dynamic, and active far beyond what the population’s numbers would predict. The state is a member of the exclusive Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has hundreds of companies listed on Nasdaq, and its expertise, technology, humanitarian assistance, and defense strategies are utilized by countries on every continent.
Whether your interest is in the ancient or modern Middle East, or in Jewish tradition, Hebrew is an essential language. In our courses, you will gain access to Hebrew conversation and literacy, and you will find a personal connection that is meaningful to you.
USC Hebrew courses
USC offers four courses in Hebrew language. Most students in the Dornsife College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences have a three semester language requirement; some majors require four semesters. Hebrew is a perfect choice for many heritage speakers, students who have studied Hebrew in the past, students who are interested in the Middle East, or students who wish to explore religion, history, and culture. Students can take the Hebrew courses in sequence or place into one of the higher-level courses by taking the Hebrew language assessment. The assessment process has two parts – oral and written – and is administered through the Louchheim Jewish Studies program. Contact the JS office to schedule a placement assessment: email@example.com or 213-765-2113. Please get in touch at least three weeks before the semester begins.
HEBR 120, Hebrew I
This course focuses on the acquisition of proficiency and communicative skills (speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension), as well as cultural literacy. Students will acquire familiarity with the sound system and structure of Hebrew and use basic communication skills in simulated situations. Students will master reading and writing in the Hebrew alphabet, and they will read and listen to a variety of written and oral texts relating primarily to their own lives.
HEBR 150, Hebrew II
A continuation of Hebrew 120, this course offers a higher level of skill development in reading, writing, and conversation. Students will be introduced to linguistic and cultural elements that are essential to conducting short conversations, including describing themselves and their family, shopping for clothing, talking about the weather and seasons, making travel arrangements, and exploring Israel. Students will also be introduced to the history of the Hebrew language.
HEBR 220, Hebrew III
In this course students gain better control over communication skills introduced in Hebrew 120 and Hebrew 150, expanding their repertoire to include a broader range of conversation topics and tasks, greater sophistication and complexity of expressions, and ability to participate in real-life oral and written scenarios. Students will also learn about the past and present of the Hebrew language and its relationship to the history of Israel.
HEBR 315, Modern Hebrew Language (Hebrew IV)
This course examines Modern Hebrew language in depth and introduces students to Modern Hebrew literature through major poems, novels, and films from the 19th through 21st centuries. Students deepen their fluency by unpacking the nuances of spoken and written Hebrew.
Professor Hagit Arieli-Chai, a native Israeli, is the coordinator of Hebrew studies for the Louchheim School for Judaic Studies at USC. She specializes in language acquisition and language proficiency at different levels using authentic material for teaching Modern Hebrew. She is trained by ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) as an oral language tester.
Please contact the Jewish studies office for questions related to the Hebrew language assessment process and/or to set up an assessment appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-765-2113). For other questions about studying Hebrew, you can reach Professor Arieli-Chai by email.
Study Abroad in Israel
USC undergraduates may spend a year or spring semester at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ). The program begins with a three-week pre-semester period of intensive Hebrew language study. Study abroad students are based at HUJ’s Rothberg International School (RIS), where the medium of instruction is English. USC students take a semester-long Hebrew language course and English-taught courses at RIS in fields such as archaeology, art history, environmental studies, history, international relations, Jewish and religious studies, Middle East and Islamic studies, literature, political science, neuroscience, and psychology. Students may also take Arabic or Yiddish at RIS. Although most regular HUJ courses are taught in Hebrew, there are well over a dozen regular HUJ courses offered in English. All USC students are required to take at least one regular HUJ course taught in English (or in Hebrew for students with advanced language ability). Students live in campus dormitories and may participate in a variety of social and cultural activities at the university. Students must have completed two semesters of college-level Hebrew or the equivalent to participate in this program. You can find more information about the program and how to apply from the Office of Overseas Studies.
Several websites offer a wealth of educational material about Hebrew language and culture that helps students gain proficiency in reading, speaking, and listening. Here are some of our favorites: