Hebrew 1: Aleph Bet
Every Hebrew unit here will have two or three different ways of learning the same concepts. Some people learn with songs. Some people learn by reading or writing. Whatever learning materials in each unit “speak” to you is fine.
First, we need to learn the sounds that letters make. Don’t worry too much about knowing the names of the letters. It’s more important to know the sounds.
The videos below will help you. If you prefer a worksheet, the one below will help. You’ll see some numbers next to a few of the letters — please ignore them. They are notes you don’t need to read and are not on the sheet.
Yes, most of this is for kids. Please do not take that as an offense. Learning this way is great for beginners. Plus, you can share this with your family and make it a group activity.
One last thing: you are not learning perfect Hebrew. This is functional Hebrew. This is enough to get you through a Shabbat or holiday service. If you want perfect pronunciation, a grasp of all the grammar rules, spelling, etc. then you should take a comprehensive Hebrew course at a local college or online.
Hebrew 1 Homework
Fill in this chart with the sounds of the Hebrew letters. It is a blank version of the one above
Hebrew 2: Vowels
Hebrew vowels are a little annoying for some people. They are not their own letters, but instead are dots you’ll see around letters. This can also be confusing if you are used to reading the English spelling of Hebrew words, such as beit (house) or baruch (blessing).
For example, we would spell the Hebrew word for house B-E-I-T. B and T are the consonants and E and I are the vowels. But they all sit next to each other, so you just read each letter and you can pronounce a word.
In Hebrew, it works differently. Shucks!
The word beit/house looks like this:
When you read Hebrew, you have to learn how to see both “B” sound and the “EI” sound at the same time so that you can say “BEI” then finish with a T to say B-E-I-T.
Eventually, you’ll learn to see the whole word at once, without even having vowels, and know what a word is. It looks like this:
The other thing is that Israelis have a particular accent because they learn Modern Hebrew. We are learning Biblical Hebrew, which is different.
For example, we are going to learn to say house/beit as “BEIT”. Modern Hebrew would say “BUY-EET”. Jews from Eastern Europe might even pronounce it “BUY-IS” or “BUY-EES”. So let’s keep it simple and only learn one thing.
Now it’s time to learn those vowels!
Here is your list of vowel sounds. Remember, we’re only focused on the sounds, not the names. You’re welcome to learn the names on your own, but that is not the purpose of our lesson.
Hebrew Homework 2
Download the vowel sounds worksheet. This is the same as the worksheet above, but without the sounds. Fill in the sounds the vowels make.
Play the memory game found on this website. Let us know how you did!
Practice reading with the text below.
Choose and play any of the games found here. Your computer will need flash in order for the website to work.
Hebrew 3: the Sheva Made Simple
Sometimes under a Hebrew word you’ll find what looks like this:
Here is an example in a Hebrew word:
This colon-looking thing is called a sheva. While there are a lot of rules for the sheva, we are going to keep it simple.
The only rule of the sheva: if you see it, it means to take a very short pause.
For example, take a look at this word:
If we didn’t see the two sheva symbols, we would probably pronounce this word “YISHMOO”.
Because there are two of these sheva symbols, this Hebrew word is giving us two short pauses. So we would pronounce this word “YISH-MUH-OO”.
Without the sheva, we would probably say “OOLADAM”. But this word is pronounced “OOL-ADAM.”
Hebrew 4: the Odd Things
There are times when all the rules you just learned get thrown out the window. It will make it seem like Hebrew is impossible! Don’t worry because…
- These things are odd for a reason. They don’t happen that often!
- Sometimes these odd changes make the vowels sound slightly different, or puts the emphasis in a different part of a word, but if you “mispronounce” the word no one will notice
- Sometimes changes show up and change nothing, but can trick you
We are going to learn a few of these things for future reference.
Every now and then you’ll see these odd symbols surrounding texts from the Torah that are not vowels. These are called trope symbols. They are like musical symbols. They tell the person chanting the Torah what musical sounds to make.
We circled them in yellow.
You do not need to know these. But if you’re interested, this is a good place to learn them.
The Odd Vowels
When the last letter of a word is a hey (ה) and the vowel underneath it is a חַ the sound changes from ACH to CHA. Just take the little “ah” sound and move it over a letter. For example:
It looks like it should be pronounced “ROO-CHA”. But it is actually “ROO-ACH”, the Hebrew word for spirit.
BeGeD KeFeT and the Gutturals
BeGeD KeFeT and Gutturals are memory tools to remember some other funky changes in Hebrew grammar and spelling. If they come up in your Torah portion, you may want to learn them. But for now, we’ll just leave it alone.
Homework 4: Review
Review all your Hebrew units up to this point.
Hebrew 5: Vocabulary
Here we have a list of the most common Hebrew words found in the Bible. Practice reading these along with your parshah. For a better learning experience (and to feel super smart) make yourself flash cards for each word.
The chart works like this:
Word: the Hebrew word spelled in Hebrew
Meaning: the definition of the word
Mnemonic: a fun way to remember what the word means
Translit: transliteration, the sound of the Hebrew word spelled in English letters
Download the chart and begin practicing your reading.
Hebrew Homework: Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice reading every word, six days a week. You do not have to remember what the word means, just practice reading.
For extra credit, learn one word every day, six days a week.