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Interview with Author Hanna Perez and Graphic Designer Claire Perets

Written by Yocheved Golani for Jewish Press

To read Yocheved Golani’s review of English Hebrew by Subject, please click here

JP: Hanna what prompted you to write the book and to prepare the terrific CD and site to augment it? How long did the entire project take from planning to execution and completion?

HP: The first edition was published in 2004. As a teacher with over 40 years of experience (I've worked as a private English teacher in the last 20 years), the idea came to me after I constantly found myself preparing vocabulary lists for students. I was familiar with similar products in other languages, but frustrated that it didn't exist in Hebrew/English. The first edition was intended for Israeli students to enable them to learn English vocabulary. I designed it for the many students struggling in this part of their learning, essentially, creating the book that I'd always wanted for my own teaching! The first edition took four-five years to create. The second edition took a full and very intense year from start to finished product, with a team of people working on it: Hebrew and English researchers, a US English advisor, and several proof readers with expertise in their field, e.g. a psychology lecturer for the Mind chapter.

The second edition, published in August 2009 was adapted to work in both directions – for Israelis to learn English, and for English-speakers to learn Hebrew. This meant adding vowels, gender distinctions, and verbs in the third person past tense (as well as in the infinitive).

Other major differences between the two editions include the 12-hour audio CD. All words are given in English and Hebrew to assist with pronunciation and listening comprehension, as well as retention of the vocabulary. Over 3000 new terms were added to the updated edition, which is organized into clearer sections and subsections on a modernized layout and design. The materials indicate comprehensive distinction between American English and British English.

The website makes the book accessible to people worldwide. New readers appreciate the downloadable sample chapter, contents link and audio-visual video clip.

JP: What was your basis for arranging the chapters as you did? They're not alphabetically arranged in English or Hebrew.

HP: Readers can use EHBS in whatever order they need, so structure was not crucial. However, I based the structure upon my experience of teaching foreign language, and based the text on a circular framework of expanding circles that move from the most central themes to the furthest (e.g. from family to international relations) and from the simple to the more complex (e.g. from numbers to complex scientific terminology).

The first chapter is dedicated to Polite Phrases, a fundamental stage for communication between people. Then, with the classroom (Chapter 2 – Education), as the centre of learning and communication, we move to us as Human beings (Body, Senses, Life Cycle, The Mind…), our basic needs (Food, Clothes, House...), our activities (Sport, Music, Art..), our environment and the world, and finally chapters that deal with social structures. Sometimes certain topics, such as Transport and Postal Services coming after The Town, became logically linked to each other.

The chapters, the sections and subsections, and even the words within the sections are arranged into a logical order that works by association. This enables effective learning.

A detailed alphabetical index at the back (as well as the contents list) helps people to find terms they are seeking, making it an intuitive reference book. The email newsletter, monthly phrase sheets, supports the use of the book and enables people to put what they have learned into practice. The blog supplies tools and ideas to assist comprehension.

JP: What were some of the most insightful incidents along the way?

HP: The more we organized terms into clear categories, the more words we realized needed to be included! We were surprised by how many words in Hebrew are pronounced incorrectly by pretty much every Israeli. There were many words that we had to check several times to make sure that indeed people pronounce it incorrectly; for instance 'Machlef' for interchange instead of 'Mechlaf', or 'etzev' for nerve instead of 'atzav'. This is probably due to newspapers and books being written without vowels, but we still found this reality shocking.

One of the hardest tasks was keeping a good balance between spoken language and "proper language" (especially on the Hebrew side, where a lot of spoken terms derive from English) as we wanted to make it useful, but also give people the option to enrich their language. So, we tried to include both, with priority given to the more commonly used terms (e.g. radiator - "radiator", "makren"), or the Hebrew term if it's common enough (infection - "zihum", "infectzia").

We learnt a lot - from understanding the whole confusion in Hebrew between 'daleket' (inflammation) and 'zihum' (infection), to needing to find the exact translation for a word in a particular subject. This wasn't easy for many professional topics! For example, we found that the Hebrew term for 'prop' in theatre is 'rekvizit.'

JP then asked Claire Perets, graphic designer and consultant for UK English who is now marketing the book, "How are sales going?"

CP: Sales have been fantastic, with an amazing reception of the book. In the UK, where we began our marketing campaign, it is now in Jewish adult education centers, high schools, shops and Universities across the country. In Israel it is in the high street shops, universities, and is now also being sold widely across Ulpanim, through organizations and also in adult education centers for Israelis learning English. We are currently negotiating with the Jewish Agency as it is a fantastic resource for Olim. The book is selling well online internationally, with buyers from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, etc…

Yocheved Golani is the author of highly acclaimed E-book "It's MY Crisis! And I'll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge"

Check out Yocheved Golani's website at:
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