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Basic Standards of Hebrew


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Hebrew is a Semitic language that derives from Aramaic text. Over time the language has improved, and today is known as Modern Hebrew. The alphabet consists of 27 letters, but only 19 sounds.

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Although some letters share the same sounds, different letters form specific words through contextual meaning.

HebrewVowels.jpg

As you can tell, the alphabet does not contain vowels. Vowels are found under each letter to state a specific sound against the consonant. Just like how letters share the same sounds, certain vowels are shared, too.

vowels_transliteration.gif

It is also common to see Hebrew words without vowels. Just like English, sometimes the consonants can determine the word using the correct lettering. The more advanced one can be with the Hebrew language, the letters become second nature and they wouldn't need to lean on vowel placement.

When reading Hebrew, you must read it from right to left. For those who are fluent with European languages, it will feel as though you're reading backwards. It's a fun, but challenging experience to get used to. Here are some examples:

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If you want to take a shot on how the pronunciation may be with each of the words above, feel free to message me your answers or write them below. If all have been given a shot, then I could find some more word lists.

I hope this was a decent and understanding tutorial of how to read Hebrew. It gets challenging after awhile, but once you get the basic standards down, you're only half way there!

DISCLAIMER: All images are taken from google.

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Interesting, does this meant that there are some letter in Hebrew that are pronounced the same way? For example "Tet" and "Tav" ?

I guess that in Biblical Hebrew they might have had different pronunciations but they are now pronounced identically in Modern Hebrew. Also the "Alef" and ""Ayin" might have been pronounced similar to the "Alif" and the "'ain" of Arabic?

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I do not know a lot about Arabic, but I wouldn't be surprised if some letters and sounds were shared between the two languages. Tet and Tav are pronounced the same way, yes.

There are many different versions of deciphering Hebrew. There is not only Biblical versus Modern versions, but also Safardic versus Ashkenazi too. It gets complicated, but this is the complete basics of how to read Hebrew if given a piece of paper with this specific language.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting! I see many parallels between the Hebrew and Arabic scripts. The lack of short vowels (meaning that one has to guess them based on context), the use of diacritics to indicate the vowels in highly formal texts, the right-to-left direction of writing and even the names of letters are very similar in Hebrew and Arabic.

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  • 1 month later...

My goal this year is to learn the basics of the Hebrew. Enough to enable me talk with someone in Hebrew. From what I've read in the posts above, learning Hebrew can be quite difficult [no vowels!]. But I'll give it a shot anyway.

p.s Links to some great learning resources would be appreciated.

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  • 3 months later...

BWL - Considering that they are both Semitic languages and they are all close in region, it would make sense for them to parallel a lot of their language structures/words. With all that you speak (your signature), it's great that you show a lot of interest in Hebrew/Arabic! :)

Denis Hard - As time progresses, I'll be sure create some pages and post some links that help with learning. I'm currently learning as of now through song and from my boyfriend who speaks Hebrew fluently. I'll be sure to share with you my experience and help you out along the way!

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BWL - Considering that they are both Semitic languages and they are all close in region, it would make sense for them to parallel a lot of their language structures/words. With all that you speak (your signature), it's great that you show a lot of interest in Hebrew/Arabic! :)

Denis Hard - As time progresses, I'll be sure create some pages and post some links that help with learning. I'm currently learning as of now through song and from my boyfriend who speaks Hebrew fluently. I'll be sure to share with you my experience and help you out along the way!

Thanks! Bloomsie! I really like Semitic languages and how they all (with a few exceptions) like scripts that depict the consonants correctly but drop the short vowels. When I read and Arabic text I usually take longer than reading one in English or French as I have to use the time to decipher the missing vowels! Also in Arabic, usually the sign for double consonants (its called "shadda" in Arabic) are not written (unless to avoid ambiguity) so it takes me some time to decide if the word I'm reading is, for example, "darasa" (he studied) or "darrasa" (he taught).

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BWL - I have yet to learn Arabic. My grandfather speaks it from time to time (born in Egypt), but I was never accustomed to it as I was to other languages. I remember hearing a lot of syllabic differences though in words that do sound the same. So I can understand the ambiguity when reading the words.

Haha! Although I've seen Hebrew for most of my life, I have such a hard time reading it perfectly and quickly. But when it comes to French, Spanish and Italian, I can speed through the language like no ones business. I wouldn't necessarily completely understand it, but it would sound as if I knew the language. I unfortunately don't get that from Hebrew.

I'm very curious... What was your first language that you learned?

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  • 8 months later...

I was worried when I saw that it has 27 letters but only 19 sounds. I thought lots of the words would look similar but thankfully it seems to be not the case. I'm still confused by a lot of the language, something I'm not used to, but it seems as though it will go well in the end.

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  • 1 year later...

I noticed you mentioned Ashkhanzi and Sefardi; are there different types of Hebrew?  Different dialects as there are in other languages, like Chinese has Mandarin, Cantonese, Han and so on?  I'm interested in learning it because I just started with a transcription company that is run by people who are Orthodox and they all speak Hebrew.  They do speak English as well, but still, I would like to learn and it would be nice to learn the right one. 

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  • 5 months later...
On 3/23/2016 at 5:43 AM, czarina84 said:

I noticed you mentioned Ashkhanzi and Sefardi; are there different types of Hebrew?

The two types of Hebrew are ancient Hebrew, sometimes referred to as Biblical Hebrew, and Modern Hebrew which is spoken commonly today in Israel.  Ashkenazi and Sephardic are two different ethnic groups of Jewish people.  Sephardic Jews are Middle Eastern Jews and true Semitic people who speak Hebrew.  Ashkenazi Jews are white European Jews of Germanic or Eastern European heritage and they speak Yiddish, which is a combination of Medieval German and ancient Hebrew. 

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