Hebrew Language

Duke's Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Program (AMES) offers a major and minor with a concentration in Modern Hebrew. The major requires 10 courses, 8 of which must be at the 200 level or above. The minor requires 5 courses.

Torah Scroll
Torah Scroll; Vellum scroll of the Pentateuch, Duke Library

Why Study Hebrew?

  • Hebrew is the language of the Jewish Bible (the Christian “Old Testament”), a work of incalculable religious and cultural influence and – especially read in the original language – one of the world’s most dazzling literary achievements.
  • Hebrew is unique: a language with a 3,000 year history, it has been a language of daily life in antiquity and today as well as a holy tongue which, Jewish tradition teaches, contains within it secrets of Creation. And yet, because both classical and modern Hebrew are distinctive registers of the same language, as you learn one form of it, you begin to learn the other, too.
  • Hebrew is the primary language of Israel, one of the world’s fastest-growing high-tech economies and a country of constant prominence and importance on the world stage.
  • Learning Hebrew is fun, and efficient. The grammar is systematic and if you like crossword puzzles and Sudoku, you’ll love Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew has a small vocabulary; modern Israel was built on teaching Hebrew to waves of immigrants. The Hebrew alphabet is only a small hurdle—22 letters in all.
  • Once you know Hebrew, whole libraries of written treasures, ancient and modern, open up to you, as well as one of the most cutting-edge cinema and theater cultures in our modern world.
  • If you are interested in research on the Middle East or in working there, a knowledge of Hebrew is invaluable.

Through the Study of Hebrew, you can:

  • Work within a small language program, with personal attention from stellar instructors;
  • Read from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in the original, within your first year of study;
  • Acquire the most essential skill for the study of the Jewish tradition, in any time period;
  • Prepare for travel or study abroad in Israel;
  • Gain access to Israeli news media;
  • Learn about myriad aspects of Jewish culture and history.

Duke offers a full range of courses in Biblical and Modern Hebrew in coordination with the Duke Divinity School and the Department of Asian and Middle East Studies (AMES). Either Hebrew—ancient or modern—can be taken to fulfill the university language requirement.