Learning even the basics of Hebrew pronunciation can be a challenge, but understanding a few simple principles can make it substantially easier for you. One of those principles is something we would like to call the principle of repetition. That is, if you listen to Hebrew sounds and words being pronounced correctly, and then repeat what you’re hearing, you will eventually master the pronunciation of the language. This may seem tedious, but practice makes perfect, and this is an approach that works with more than just Hebrew. As a matter of fact, this approach will serve you well regardless of which particular language you’re trying to learn.
Another principle you’ll need to understand before you set out to master Hebrew pronunciation is that the Hebrew alphabet consists entirely of consonants. There are some dots that are used to indicate vowel sounds, but those are becoming less common in modern Hebrew. Another important fact to keep in mind here is that four of the consonants can also double as vowels. The vowel sounds represented in the various forms of Hebrew are essentially the same as the five vowel sounds which exist in English, though, so that should at least make matters a little bit easier for you.
Some of the rules of Hebrew pronunciation, as is the case with other languages, have exceptions. For example, the vast majority of the time, stress is placed on the last syllable of a Hebrew word that contains a vowel. The exception to this rule is a certain group of words, mostly nouns, in which the emphasis is placed on the next to last syllable containing a vowel. This is especially important in light of the fact that a lot of words in the Hebrew language have identical spellings. In such cases, it is only by the differences of emphasis that the word’s meaning can be determined.
Another commonality between Hebrew pronunciation and that of lots of other languages is that it has changed somewhat over time. Of course, that is partly due to the fact that so many Hebrew speakers come from so many different backgrounds. As a matter of fact, there are now even two different forms of Hebrew, known as Ashkenazi and Sephardic. This all may sound more than a little overwhelming, but you shouldn’t feel that way. Anyone can learn any new language given adequate time and instruction, and we’re here to help.