iVocab Biblical Hebrew

By Various Authors
Grand Rapids : Kregel Academic & Professional (2007). Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
19.1 (Spring 2008) : 126-128

Most seminary students would love a new video iPod or cell phone to play with—and what better excuse to justify the expense than the thought of an easy way to do Hebrew vocabulary? Prior to making a purchase, however, one needs to take a few things into consideration. For this review, the authors italicized the iPod Classic 80GB that Apple sells for $249.

iVocabis software providing audio and visual flashcards for use on iPods, video cell phones, MP3 players, and computers. This software arranged vocabularies by chapters, and covers the following popular elementary Hebrew textbooks: Basics of Biblical Hebrew, 2d edition, by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt (Zondervan, 2007), A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew by C. L. Seow (Abingdon, 1995), Introducing Biblical Hebrew by Allen P. Ross (Baker Academic, 2001), and Invitation to Biblical Hebrew by Russell T. Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi (Kregel, 2006). The pronunciation is typical modern (European) Hebrew pronunciation. The printed forms of words that appear in the video display are clear and legible. The use of a raphe (horizontal line above the accented syllable) is not nearly as attractive as the normal employment of the ‘oleh in most printed vocabularies.

Selecting a full list of vocabulary for a particular textbook chapter or section is simple. For example, “FC3” represents the 15-word vocabulary provided in Fuller and Choi’s Chapter 3. The program goes through the words displaying each Hebrew word and pronouncing it. Following the pronunciation there is a 5-second delay before the English gloss flashes on the display and it, too, is read. After going through the entire list for that section, one may select the individual word (e.g., “FC3v15” for the final word in “FC3”). For reasons unknown to the reviewers, the final word entry in some vocabulary lists would not come up — after a few seconds of a blank display the iPod would return to the vocabulary menu. This glitch might be due to either hardware or software problems.

There are some attractive advantages. iVocab provides the facility to both see and hear the words as one learns them. It is handy to have one neat little iPod rather than bulky stacks of tatty looking cards to flick through. In addition, the iPod has plenty of room for one’s music and sermons, once the 2,100 flashcards have been compressed into a mere 50MB of disk space. Two thousand traditional cards would not fit into a wallet quite as neatly as a new credit-card sized iPod. Before reaching for that real credit card to make the purchase, a few questions are to be asked.

Does iVocab actually provide the vocabulary you need to learn biblical Hebrew? This is crucial. If one of the Hebrew grammars listed above is the required textbook, iVocab might prove worthwhile. The simple reality is that the lists of vocabulary for next week’s test or quiz are all there—neatly in order and easily accessed. If the required grammar is different, the student may well find himself as frustrated as the co-author of this review, fiddling fruitlessly with the alleged facility to sort the cards into new playlists within iTunes, only to give up in dismay at the inordinate waste of time. Added to this frustration, was the sad reality that the list of English glosses for each Hebrew word did not always match the required textbook’s glosses.

Does iVocab meet each student’s need? For the audio learner and the visual learner, this software might be a boon. However, for kinesthetic learners, writing out vocabulary cards and laboriously forming the words enhances recognition and learning. For this latter group, iVocab might prove nothing more than another electronic toy. Do you already own hardware compatible with the software? The professor participating in this review owns only an original iPod Nano—the software was not accessible even in audio despite following all the installation procedures. Even though the software is apparently compatible with audio-only hardware, the full potential can be realized only with hardware having video capability.

For students with hectic schedules, iVocab can prove to be a significant aid simply because of the speed with which the vocabulary can be called up, the ease with which the information can be accessed, and the handy size which eliminates having to carry the textbook to work breaks and family outings during which some study time needs to be redeemed.