Hebrew is more than just a language. It’s a vibrant and effusive expression of culture, history, and identities. It’s also one of the core Aleph Bet principles, and bituyim (ביטויים), Hebrew slang, can deepen our connection to the people of Israel. By comparing slang and literal meanings, we also further connect to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his work to revitalize the Hebrew language.
Ready to use Hebrew slang like an Israeli? Yalla! Choose your favorites from below or download posters if you want all of them in one place. For suggested activities click here.
HEBREW SLANG SIGNS
HEBREW SLANG POSTERS
Display them by decorating everything around you—with a poster, one at a time, or several at once—somewhere clearly visible. If using at home, they can be in a main space, bedroom, or even in the bathroom. Keep things interesting by rearranging them regularly.
Each morning at breakfast, introduce the word or phrase of the day. Feel free to give additional context beyond the poster itself. Practice saying the word or phrase throughout the day, and consider rewarding the person who uses it the most.
Each person receives one slang word or phrase. One person volunteers to start telling a story; They can say a few sentences, but must find a way to incorporate their slang word or phrase into the story in an authentic way. The person next to them (virtually, the order can be pre-assigned) then continues the same story, and has to find a way to organically bring in their slang word or phrase. This continues until the last person finds a way to use their slang word or phrase and conclude the story.
Divide into smaller groups and teach each smaller group their own Hebrew slang word. Have each group practice their assigned word. Ahead of the activity, create a story that incorporates the repeated use of chosen (pre-assigned) slang words throughout. Tell the story to the group, and at the appropriate places in the story, point to/cue the team with the relevant phrase and have them say it out loud, together.
Also known as Balderdash or Fictionary
After people have learned many of the phrases, play this game to reinforce vocabulary, or when you introduce a new word or phrase.
Assign a three-person group one of the signs or posters, and have each person say the slang phrase and a possible meaning/definition (they can coordinate ahead of time and/or you can pre-assign who says what). Only one is correct: all of the other participants vote on which is the right answer. Regardless of the vote, ensure you reveal the correct answer at the end.
Listen for the slang words
The idea here is to enjoy both listening to Israeli music and suddenly being able to recognize and understand some of the words, especially high frequency words in the song/chorus. Examples of songs that use slang words include “Bassa Sababa” by Netta and “Yehiyeh B’seder” by Cafe Shachor Chazak [Both of these are in our Israeli Music Playlist] Ask an Israeli to help you create a playlist of songs that incorporate the slang words.
Use newly learned Hebrew words and phrases as a commentary on life. After activities—whether listening to a song, eating, or having a new experience—prompt with the question, “Eich hayah?” (“How was it?”). Open the space for participants to respond using the bank of other Hebrew phrases and slang words. This can be based on memory if they are more familiar. Alternatively, they can each have their own “deck” of slang signs, raising the one they want to use to answer the prompt or question.
Create a list of odd questions which all start with “would you ever…?” For example, “Would you ever sing in front of a stranger?” or “Would you ever try a food that smells weird?” Ask participants to answer either “yesh matzav” (“could be/maybe”), “ein matzav” (“not a chance”) or “ein li musag” (“I have no idea”). You may add a movement element to this game by calling one corner (or side) of the room yesh matzav, another ein matzav, and one more ein li musag. After asking each question, ask participants to run to the corner (or side) of the room that represents their answer. Note: to ensure people are using the words (as well as understanding them), ask people to call out the name of the corner (or side) of the room they are standing at.
Give a slang word or phrase as a prompt/title to a short story. People need to use at least one other slang word or phrase in their story. To make it more challenging, ask participants to finish their writing with a slang word or phrase. Feel free to ask anyone who feels brave enough to share their writing.
Using this blank template, speak with an Israeli and create your own slang sign. Another version is to think of an English slang word or phrase and determine how you would translate it into Hebrew. One example is “easy peasy lemon squeezy”. You might be able to translate it to “kal peasy limon squeezy.” Then speak with an Israeli (family member, community shaliach, friend, etc.) to find the Israeli equivalent of that phrase in Hebrew—kalei kalut (piece of cake)!
Create a ‘Hebrew word of the week’ board. At the start of each week, introduce the word and practice saying it together. Also be sure to give an example or two of how to use the word in a sentence. Throughout the week, encourage children to cheer (or raise hands, or otherwise commemorate) when they hear someone say the word! Wondering what sorts of Hebrew slang and phrases to introduce? Start by printing this packet of slang posters or come up with your own using the blank template at the end!