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How “At Home with Hebrew” was Created

by Neal Walters

Back in 1994, I first began to learn Hebrew. Most books were just too difficult; for example, I ordered the “Foreign Service Institute” course. It taught the entire alphabet on one page, then jumped into complex lessons with no vowels.

Finally, I found an exercise book that was dedicated to just teaching a person to read the Hebrew letters. This book would teach one letter, and a few vowels in the first chapter. The second chapter would follow-up with the same letter, and add another letter and another vowel or two. In Hebrew, the vowels are written below or above the Hebrew letters, and they are called Nikud.

Using this methodology, I finally got to where I could read Hebrew words “on site”. Then I could make out words in the course book, the Sidur, or the Hebrew Bible and finally be able to pronounce them, even if I didn’t know what they meant. As a beginner though, I didn’t always know if my pronunciation was correct or not.

Even the books were lacking. What I needed was a person (or computer) sitting there with me, validating whether I was pronouncing the Hebrew words correctly or not. Oh vey – if only I would have had a personal tutor. But as a software programmer, I knew that I could get the computer to take the place of the tutor that I didn’t have.

A friend of mine helped me with the Hebrew fonts, and suggested a multimedia book-oriented tutorial program called “Tool book”. I purchased and learned Tool book, and slowly began to write my own Hebrew tutorial program. It was a big challenge and very time consuming. It probably took over two full years to get the product in the format that it is today.

I didn’t choose to teach the alphabet in alphabetic order. Instead, I chose letters based on their shape and their frequency of use. Eventually, I found a talented singer and speaker to record over 2700 voice files, which then had to be meticulously edited on the computer.

Finally, the art work came together, and the progam changed from three diskettes (you don’t see those much any more) to a CD/ROM. I learned Microsoft Frontpage and began selling the program online, back when the world wide web was just in its infancy. After 10 years, I have literrally sold 100s of the program.

Creating my first published software tutorial “At Home with Hebrew” was a challenge and a labor of love. It was not an immediate financial success, but I learned a lot, and it introduced me to the world of internet marketing. After the first program, I went on to create two additional Hebrew tutorials and created a successful website marketing dozens of other peoples products.

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