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"There is No Time More Pleasurable Than When I Converse in the Sacred Language": A Plan for the Revival of Spoken Hebrew in Nineteenth Century Italy

From: Hebrew Studies
Volume 53, 2012
pp. 203-230 | 10.1353/hbr.2012.0037



Decades before the revival of spoken Hebrew in Palestine, Italian educators created tools that encouraged students to practice the language in conversation as if it were a living tongue. Leone Reggio's שפת לשון הקדש Studio pratico della lingua santa is the best example of these works. Modeled on contemporary foreign language textbooks, Reggio's manual prepared students to speak Hebrew by equipping them with a broad vocabulary and a wide range of useful phrases and supplying a collection of model dialogues to be imitated in conversation. Although Reggio saw the study of Hebrew as an important way to preserve religious values at a moment when the Italian ghettos were being dismantled, his textbook differs from its rivals in its thoroughly secular content. Reggio's own description of the book indicates that he saw himself as preparing the way for the use of Hebrew as a national vernacular.

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