Lessons on the|
|E1 א בּ ת •|
|2 ב ה נן • E|
|3 מם שׁשׂ • E|
|4 ל ו • E|
|5 ד ר י • E|
|6 ג ז ח • E|
|7 ט ככּך • E|
|8 ס ק • E|
|9 ע פפּף • E|
|10 צץ • E|
|Test • Answers|
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Welcome to the first lesson in the Hebrew alphabet! In this lesson you will learn the first two and most basic Hebrew letters - א בּ and the last letter, ת, and the first two niqqud symbols - pataħ and shva.
Important note: the Hebrew alphabet, unlike the Latin alphabet (which English uses), is read from right to left.
The Hebrew alphabet has no vowel letters. The letters only mark consonants, which means that when you look at a word you would have no idea how it is pronounced. Such alphabets are known as "abjads". The vowels would be explained immediately after this section. But we will begin with the two, first consonants.
א The first letter in the Hebrew alphabet is Aleph. It has 3 uses:
- It makes a consonant called "glottal stop", as in "co’operate" or "re’enact".
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- 2. When at the beginning of a word, it means the word starts with a vowel.
- 3. When preceded by any "a" vowel, when at the end of a word (there are exceptions) and in foreign words (because in most texts there are no marked vowels) it makes the "a" sound (IPA: /a/, "a" as in "spa").
בּ The second letter in the Hebrew alphabet is Bet. It makes the "b" sound (IPA: /b/, "b" as in "ball"). When there is no dot in the middle, the letter makes a different sound, so make sure to remember the dot.
ת The last letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the third you will learn is Tav. It makes the "t" sound (IPA: /t/, "t" as in "tomato").
Now you've learned the first three letters! But all you have is consonants. In order to be actually able to pronounce words, you need vowels.
In Hebrew, vowels appear as dots and bars above, beneath or to the left of letters. This system of dots and lines is known as niqqud, a Hebrew word which means "applying dots". It was devised by a group of early Medieval Jewish scribes and Bible scholars known as the Masoretes (masoret means "tradition" in Hebrew). They invented the niqqud to make sure that the "correct" pronunciation of the Bible would not be lost.
You would eventually have to learn to read without niqqud. It might seem daunting, but with a little exercise you would learn to recognize words and know how to pronounce them. But until then, you must learn the niqqud symbols first. Now you learn the first two:
בַּ The pataħ is the line under the Bet.
The pataħ produces the "a" sound (IPA: /a/, "a" as in "spa").
בְּ The shva is the two vertical dots under the Bet.
Shva does two things:
- Shva naħ (resting Shva): placed under a consonant to mark the end of a syllable.
- Shva na‘ (moving Shva): when shva is at the beginning of a syllable, it produces the "ə" sound (IPA: /ə/, "a" as in "about"). Many Israelis pronounce it as "e".
Now that we have three consonants and two vowels, we can produce words!
This word בַּתּ or bat is pronounced closer to the second syllable in the English word robot (American pronunciation) than the English word bat (the animal, or the thing you use to hit a baseball or cricket ball). Similarly, the word אַתְּ or at, is pronounced as in the word attraction. (notice - it is not pronounced like the English word that is spelled as at.)
Try to read these words out loud. Remember that Hebrew is read from right to left!
Notes about these letters
A common phrase that English speakers may know is Bat Mitzvah. This phrase is usually translated as Daughter of the Commandments and is used to refer to a young, Jewish woman, who is old enough to be morally responsible for her actions. This would be at age 12 or 13 depending on the Jewish denomination.
A very simple sentence is
which means "you are a daughter" or "you are a girl". (We'll explain in later lessons about the "to be" verbs like are and the article a.)
The English word for our letters, alphabet, comes from aleph-bet, the first two letters in the Hebrew language.
Each Hebrew letter also has a numeric value. Those are explained separately. The letter Aleph (א) has the value of 1. The letter Bet (בּ) has the value of 2. The letter Tav (תּ) is the 22nd and last letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet; it has the value of 400.
Remember the letters you have learned: Aleph (א), Bet (בּ) and Tav (תּ).
Also remember the vowels you have learned: Pataħ (ַ) and Shva (ְ).
With this knowledge, you can make six possible combinations:
אַ אְ בַּ בְּ תַּ תְּ
Assign each letter to the sound it makes:
Now do the opposite. Assign each sound to the equivalent Hebrew letter:
How do you spell each of the following words (most of which are fictional)?
Example: אַבְּ Aleph-pataħ Bet-shva
How do you pronounce each of the following words?
Example: אַבְּ Ab
- When Tav is at the end of a letter it loses the dot but does not change its pronunciation. In order to avoid confusion with the Bet/Vet pronunciation, in this lesson only there will be a dot in the Tav in the end of the word bat.
there is no such thing as אְ (Alef with Shva), because Alef is A "Gronit" (גרונית) lettre [from hebrew- guttural] it can not be vowelized with Shva. in a situation like this one, the Alef "יחטוף" [kidnap] a patach, segol....