If you’re visiting or moving to Tel Aviv and feel your Hebrew needs improving, then worry not, as there are numerous ulpans (Hebrew courses) to choose from. Each have their own style and approach to teaching Hebrew, and whether you’re a complete beginner or simply want to improve your accent, you’ll find something to suit.
“Bayit” means “home” in Hebrew, which is certainly what this independent Hebrew school feels like. It is located on a cosy top floor of a building in the heart of Tel Aviv’s hippest neighbourhood, Florentin, which is an added bonus for anyone keen to explore this area. It has passionate, friendly and young teachers, small classes (from eight to 12 students per class), and caters for anyone from beginners to advanced speakers.
They also offer weekly workshops on top of their regular courses, including a book club and accent training. It attracts a young and diverse crowd, thanks to its affordable prices (2000 to 2500 shekels), relaxed atmosphere, and relatively short courses.
Perhaps the most well known of Tel Aviv’s ulpans, Ulpan Gordon is operated by the government’s Education Ministry and was established over 20 years ago. As a result, it is extremely large and subsidised, with several thousand students participating each year and up to 40 classes taking place at a time.
It caters to nine levels: each course takes place between two to five times a week, with students able to choose from morning, afternoon or evening classes. In addition to this, it is based in a central location just minutes from the beach.
The mantra of this unconventional and informal Hebrew learning group is, “we don’t learn Hebrew. We learn in Hebrew”. Its courses tackle real issues in Israel and encourage critical discussion, catering to all levels of Hebrew. From the status of refugees in Israel to its feminist movement, you will learn a lot about contemporary Israeli society and its history in this ulpan.
Every course comprises of 10 two-hour lessons and meets once a week. Prices are the lowest you’ll find in the city among the non-government subsidised options (600-690 shekels per semester).
Highly reputable but expensive ($1,450 to $1,700, plus a $60 application fee), this ulpan is based in the main campus of Tel Aviv University (TAU), in the northern Ramat Aviv neighbourhood. Highly intensive and catering to all levels, classes take place from Sunday to Thursday from 8:30am to 1pm over a period of four to seven weeks, depending on the course.
While you don’t need to be a student at TAU to enrol in this ulpan, most of your classmates will be American exchange students on a semester abroad. Bear in mind that many are obligated to take this course, meaning you might be in a learning environment where some are less motivated than others to study Hebrew.
This is the latest addition to the Tel Aviv ulpan scene, and a highly-rated one at that. Citizen Café‘s self-proclaimed mission is to “help non-native speakers immerse themselves in the language, culture and lifestyle of modern-day Tel Aviv”, using a natural, non-textbook approach. Their classic 10-week course convenes twice weekly, with classes taking place early in the morning or in after-work hours to fit the schedule of its target audience (young professionals).
Classes are limited to eight people, making it an intimate environment where every student receives personal attention. You can forget about tedious grammar tables – here, you’ll only be learning useful and relevant Hebrew to help you adapt to daily life in Tel Aviv. Courses cater to all levels and prices are in the upper bracket, costing 3,320 shekels (roughly $950). It is also located in a trendy shared workspace where numerous Israeli startups work, so you’re bound to meet some interesting people.
Guy Sharett’s Streetwise Hebrew podcast & graffiti tour
An alternative (and free) option for learning Hebrew is the popular Streetwise Hebrew podcast. Sharett, a vastly experienced Hebrew teacher and former journalist, teaches his listeners Israeli slang and useful phrases in short and regular uploads. In addition to this, he runs urban culture tours around Florentine, Tel Aviv’s hippest neighbourhood.
The tour is in English, with Sharett explaining and translating the provocative and often politically charged graffiti art and messages that characterise the landscape. This is a great way to explore one of the most interesting and vibrant urban neighbourhoods in Israel, while simultaneously brushing up on your Hebrew skills!