To Learn Hebrew, Start With the Alphabet (or AlephBet)

When it comes to learning a new language, it can be difficult to figure out just where to start. This is especially true when a language is written using a different alphabet. With these languages, including Hebrew, there are real benefits to starting by learning the alphabet. Because the first two hebrew letters are Alef and Bet, the alphabet for this language is sometimes called the “alephbet” or “AlefBet” (depending on how you want to spell it). Learning the alphabet means that you’ll be able to practice reading and writing as well as just trying to memorize words that you hear. You’ll be able to learn to write and spell the words properly from the start.

Vowels

The Hebrew alphabet was developed from Egyptian hieroglyphics. As with a number of other early writing systems, there are no vowels, only consonants, among the letters of the hebrew alphabet. However, to make it easier for people to become literate and read Hebrew, sometimes text is written with what are called points. This is a system of dots and dashes that go below the letter to signify which vowel sound should be used in combination with the consonant from the alphabet. Those just getting started trying to learn hebrew may want to make sure they use pointed texts, as unpointed texts are a lot more confusing to beginners.

Syllables

When learning how to read Hebrew, there’s another writing convention to be aware of, called a dagesh. This is a dot that is sometimes put in the middle of a letter. This shows where there is a break between syllables, and this letter should be pronounced both at the end of one syllable and the beginning of the next. With certain letters, including Pei, Beit and Kaf, this dot can also indicate to use the hard sound of the letter rather than it’s soft sound.

Letter Variations

Some letters in Hebrew have two different versions. One is used when the letter is found at the beginning or in the middle of a word, and another is used when the letter is located at the end of the word. These include Tzadei, Kaf, Nun, Mem and Pei. Sometimes the version found at the end of the word is indicated by the word “final” before the letter, such as the Final Pei. These letters usually are different in that most of them have a tail added to them.

Writing Direction

Another difference between reading and writing Hebrew and English is that Hebrew is written from the right to the left instead of the left to the right. This can be a bit confusing for people that aren’t used to it.

Transliteration Considerations

Those who want to try to learn Hebrew without learning the alphabet will have to do so using transliteration. This is when Hebrew writing is rewritten using the regular English alphabet. However, words aren’t always transliterated in the same way, as there are a variety of different ways for transliterating from Hebrew to English letters, all of which are considered valid. This is why it’s common to see Hebrew words spelled in a number of different ways when written using English characters.