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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Yana here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of your most common Hebrew questions.
The question for this lesson is…
How can you possibly read Hebrew if it doesn't have any vowels?
The simple answer to this question is that people who are fluent in Hebrew know which vowels go with different words. For someone who knows any language well, it's really not as hard as it sounds.
Try it! Here's a famous quote in English translation, with the vowels removed.
Tht whch s htfl t y, d nt d t yr fllw.
Take a minute to read this. Can you figure it out?
(After a minute) That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.
Was it easier than you thought? Most English speakers don't practice this skill much, but imagine if you did this all the time!
In reality there are a few characters used sometimes to indicate vowel sounds in Hebrew, and even native speakers use them. I'll explain more about this in a later lesson.
You now know how native speakers can read Hebrew without vowels, but what about Hebrew learners? There are a couple systems available to help non-native or beginner speakers read Hebrew text. The most common of these is the niqqud. Here's an example.
תּוֹךְ מִסְפָּר שָׁבוּעוֹת הַחֲנוּת נִסְגְּרָה
regular Hebrew text
תוך מספר שבועות החנות נסגרה
Do you see these dots and marks? They represent the vowel sounds, and are called niqqud.
We go over this system in more detail in our Hebrew Alphabet Made Easy Series. But for now, take comfort that there is help!
There's also a number of systems of Roman transliteration. These almost always include vowels to help you read.
For example, the sentence above can be read
Tokh mispar shavuot ha'khanut nisgera
All beginner materials at HebrewPod101.com include this kind of romanization!
How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!