Ulpan-Or, a language learning method developed in Israel, which has revolutionized the teaching of Hebrew as a second language there, is being introduced this fall at the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS).
OJCS is the first school in Canada to introduce the Ulpan-Or method for teaching Hebrew.
Starting at the middle school level, Grades 6 to 8, OJCS will use Ulpan-Or’s curriculum and methodology to teach Hebrew.
Nachum Ganor, the son of Ulpan-Or founders Orly and Yoel Ganor, met with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin late last month while he was in town training OJCS Hebrew teachers in the Ulpan-Or method.
“We hope to effect a positive change in Hebrew curriculum,” said Ganor, adding the main problem they’ve seen over the years has been adults and kids talking about “Hebrew trauma” while trying to learn the language.
“It’s a shame, because we really see Hebrew as the key for both the connection to Israel and for Judaism. It’s the broadest common denominator that we all have as Jews.”
Rapid Learning Acquisition, a methodology Ulpan-Or developed, and Ulpan-Or’s own technology, are the two key aspects that make its program unique and allow people to become fluent in Hebrew much more quickly than with other teaching methods.
Ganor said the Ulpan-Or program is designed to get students speaking Hebrew quickly. “Because, when you understand and talk, it is easier for you to read and write. People have a lot of passive knowledge, and we try to make it active.”
Ulpan-Or’s curriculum is online and OJCS students will have full access to all of their electronic materials including eBooks, audio clips, videos, flashcards and games.
Ganor said technology – rather than English or Hebrew – is the mother tongue of today’s students.
“We have to speak to them in their language [technology] in order for it to be fun for them. If it is not fun for them, it will not work,” he said. “They need to enjoy learning Hebrew.”
Ganor said his mother, Orly Ganor, founded the program in 1995 after asking herself how it was possible for people to study Hebrew for months but still be unable to order a cup of coffee in Hebrew.
After researching how people learn languages, she went on to develop the Ulpan-Or curriculum and books.
Soon after, Yoel Ganor left his career in the high-tech industry to join his wife at Ulpan-Or and develop its technology.
Ulpan-Or now has campuses in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and clients around the world it teaches online. The Ulpan-Or vision, Ganor said, is to open Hebrew hubs to better effect Jewish communities worldwide.
Ganor said he was gratified to see the OJCS teachers working hard at learning this new system of teaching Hebrew.
“It’s hard to shift everything after years of working a certain way, but I think this is necessary,” he said, “It’s nice to see it come to life.”