As readers of this blog are most likely aware, I am concerned with vocabulary acquisition, especially as it relates to Classical Hebrew. Therefore, I am glad the fine people at Kregel have given me an opportunity to review one of their newest products, iVocab Biblical Hebrew 2.0. This program, with the help of an iPod, will make your standard run of the mill homemade (or store bought) vocabulary cards obsolete.
I have sadly made thousands of standard vocabulary cards keyed to various grammars (Seow, Lambdin, and Pratico &Van Pelt), and have even bought a slick professional set (created by the late Raymond Dillard), but I will never use those clunky awkward index cards again. Traditional vocabulary cards don’t travel well, meaning it is hard to whip out a set of 50 cards on a crowded subway car. Also it is easy to either mess up the order of those cards or simply lose a random word (my dog is notorious for jumping up on my desk and eating my index cards. I keep telling her that “vocabulary acquisition does not work that way”, but that statement does nothing to curb her desire for ingesting my cards). With iVocab 2.0, those issues are a thing of the past, because students will have access to over 1000 Hebrew words on their MP3 player, keyed to the most common modern introductory Hebrew grammars on the market (such as Kittel, Hoffer, & Wright, Seow, Pratico & Van Pelt, Kelly, and more). A student will no longer have to carefully balance a tall stack of cards, but solely hold onto their iPod or cell phone.
This product surpasses traditional vocabulary cards, because it pairs the visual with the auditory. When a student reads a vocabulary word off of their MP3 player, a reader pronounces that word in Hebrew, followed by the display of an English gloss and a reading of that gloss. Such an approach is a proven method that helps students memorize a word more quickly. This is something that a traditional paper based vocabulary card simply can’t do.
Another surprise benefit of this product is the ability to create a series of review lists to help you work through the vocabulary terms more efficiently. This was accomplished with paper flashcards by creating a series of stacks (such as: words you know really well, words you barely know, and words that you don’t know at all), but with this program you can digitally categorize these words with ease without maintaining ever growing piles of index cards.
One of the few negative critiques I have for this product is the pronunciation of Hebrew words. While I personally prefer a Modern Hebrew pronunciation, many of the grammars that are keyed to this product do not advocate such a vocalization. Christian seminaries and Bible colleges tend to use another method to vocalize various Hebrew radicals (for example a ו is pronounced with a “w” sound instead of a “v” sound); such a variation may cause confusion to a beginning student retarding the process of acquisition. It seems to me that this product could reach a larger audience if one had the ability to choose between hearing one of the two different styles of vocalization.
The only other negative critique I have with this product is that it takes a bit too long to install all of the files onto your computer (esp. the individual pre-created vocabulary lists). Copying individual folders into iTunes does get a bit tedious, but the outcome is well worth the inconvenience.
If using “standard” paper vocabulary cards are the way that you personally review your Hebrew, then I think that this product will be an ideal fit for your needs. By allowing students to both see and hear their vocabulary in a convenient format, Kregel has a true winner on their hands.
 I am using the word “standard” to mean: Hebrew on one side with English glosses on the other side.
 Only when paired with an iPod or viewed through your computer using iTunes.