Whether you have made up your mind to start learning Hebrew or you have plans to do so, you should decide what kind of Hebrew dictionary will best serve your needs. Some of the main considerations to pay attention to are:
What is your Hebrew language level? Can you read Hebrew words without vowel indication (nikud)?
Where are you going to use it?
Are you going to carry it around with you?
Are you a gadget lover or do you prefer good old (heavy weight) hardback dictionaries?
Do you intend to learn Modern Hebrew or ancient scriptures (Bible or Aramaic)?
What is your budget?
Beginners - If you are taking your first steps in the Hebrew language and you do not feel comfortable reading words with no vowel indication it is recommended that you use a regular paperback Hebrew dictionary – for example, the Achiasaf Hebrew-English dictionary comes with a full phonetic transcription and nikud for every word.
Intermediate to advanced - If you already feel more comfortable with the language and able to read words without vowel indication – it is time to move forward and try the electronic dictionaries, such as the Babylon electronic Hebrew-English translator – they are easy to use, light weighted and can be carried around easily.
Usage – where will you be using the dictionary?
Home or library - If you want a Hebrew dictionary for your home library or for use in a public space, it's best to go for a hardback or paperback dictionary.
On The Go translation – If you study Hebrew in school or college, or if you are traveling in Israel, you might want to go for a compact dictionary that you can carry with you in your backpack. This would be the time to consider a handheld device. There are several options for this type of dictionary including but not limited to pen scanners with pioneering OCR technology, and the Hebrew-English Babylon e-dictionary.
If you are looking for fast, on-the-go translation with high efficiency, electronic dictionaries are by far the more simplified way to go. After all, they are lightweight, portable and integrate an array of features loaded with all kinds of functions aimed to assist in learning the new vocabulary on the go.
Of course, you can also invest in a hard-copy dictionary for you and your family to use for a long time. It is also worth noting that traditionally in formal exams students have only been allowed to use hard-copy dictionaries.
Desktop and Online Dictionaries – These can be quite useful if you work in an office setting. With that, they do have three disadvantages attached to them:
First, the reality is - most people are not constantly connected to the internet. Similarly, people are not always on their computer. Even smart phones don't automatically mean constant internet connection – this depends on the user and on the user's data plan, among other factors. Handheld devices can also experience problems with the internet connection on the go or when you go into particular zones. Pen scanners, on the other hand, can scan a whole line from a newspaper or a book and swiftly show the result on the small screen. No connection to internet is required.
Most people who decide to learn Hebrew will use more than one type of dictionary, since each tool or device has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are tech-savvy and like having data at your fingertips, you can choose to use a computer software version of a dictionary that you like, as many of them provide that option. This is also compatible with most wireless technology.
Modern Hebrew versus Ancient scriptures
We recommend that you first decide what kind of Hebrew you wish to learn – Modern Hebrew or Ancient Hebrew. Then you should pick the one that offers the type of Hebrew you are interested in.
It is true that the Hebrew language in itself is a very old language, but it has been revived during the twentieth century. If you've never attempted to learn this language in the past but have the desire and the curiosity, it is never too late. It might be something you've been personally intrigued by, or you might be planning a trip to Israel or a Hebrew-speaking community. Maybe your new business partner speaks Hebrew and it is a great opportunity to schmooze or impress - whatever your motivation is, it would be a worthwhile investment to learn the language using Modern Hebrew dictionaries. Modern Hebrew dictionaries contain current expressions and idioms that can help you communicate effectively in Hebrew wherever it is spoken.
Some academics or archeology scientists may be interested in the ancient ancestor of the Hebrew language, Aramaic. For anyone wanting to study and read ancient scriptures, an electronic Aramaic translator is an indispensible resource. Without such a tool it would be extremely challenging to decipher Aramaic transcripts.
A soft cover Hebrew dictionary can be purchased online for less then US$45, if you want a hard cover you can add US$10 or more. The next step would be an electronic dictionary – the Babylon translator will cost around the US$140 – sometimes you can get it for less on a special sale. For all you gadget lovers, you can get the new release of the Quicktionary TS Hebrew pen scanner translator for less then US$200.
Small is beautiful:
So far no research has been done on the subject, but anecdotal evidence does give a sense of what people prefer. While there is small number of people who speak Hebrew around the world relatively to other more popular languages, there are many companies and manufacturers that have released Hebrew versions of their products being aware of the Hebrew-speaking market's potential. To top that, two of the largest companies in the industry, Babylon and Wizcom, are Israeli owned.