Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Hebrew.
My name is Alisha, and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Idit
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Hebrew pronunciation.
Pronunciation refers to the manner in which a word is spoken. So don't focus on reading what's onscreen. Instead focus on listening and repeating.
English vs. Hebrew sounds
In Hebrew, there are only 22 letters of the alphabet, and technically they are all consonants.
But some of these letters have more than one sound, so don't think you only have 22 sounds to learn. There are also vowel sounds which are shown by a dot system called nikud.
Many of the sounds are similar to English, like b, v, sh, s and t...
בּ, ב, ש, ס, ת
But there are a few sounds you may not recognize at first.
ח, ע, צ
In Hebrew, words are stressed differently than in English. Stress is usually on the last syllable of the word.
עבודה, מוצץ, מתלבש
Avodah, motzet, mitlabesh (m)
"work, pacifier, get dressed (m)"
But in some cases, the stress is on the second to last syllable of the word.
לקוח, נוסע, מתלבשת
Lako'akh, nose'a, mit'labeshet (f)
"customer, passenger, get dressed (f)"
Vowels in Hebrew
Letters produce consonant sounds. These sounds are combined with vowel sounds indicated by the nikud.
Vowel sounds you find in Hebrew are all found in English as well.
a, e, i, o, u
There are different notations for these vowels, but, in most cases, the basic vowel sound stays the same. The pattern of the word and the placement of the vowel determines which vowel symbol will be used.
For example, the word for "language," לשון, and the word for "crisis," משבר, both have ah vowels after the first letter. But because of the way the word is constructed, the vowels are notated differently. They also carry a different kind of stress within the word, even though the basic vowel sound is the same.
lashon - "language"
mashber - "crisis"
Consonants with double sounds in Hebrew
Some letters have two sounds, depending on if there's a stress on the consonant or not.
ב is both "b" and "v."
כ is both "k" and "kh."
פ is both "p" and "f."
There is also one other letter that changes sound according to the dot above it.
That's שׁ and שׂ. It makes the "sh" sound when the dot is on the right, and the "sss" sound when the dot is on the left.
shin and sin
The most daunting group of letters are the gutteral letters.
א, ה, ח, ע, ר
aleph, heh, ħet, ayin, resh
Three of these letters are pronounced deep in the throat. These may feel unusual at first, but are fun to say once you get the hang of them.
ע, ח, ר
ע, ח, ר
ayin, het, resh
The sound of Hebrew
Most of the letter sounds in Hebrew are already letter sounds you use in English. That means that if you were to simply imitate a Hebrew speaker, your pronunciation would be correct a lot of the time!
For example, listen and repeat after Idit.
Chances are your pronunciation was pretty spot on. The "K," "V," and "T" sounds are practically identical to English. It's only the "R" that's a little different.
Focus on this first letter. It's often written as an "R," but don't be fooled!
This letter is pronounced differently than an English "R!" It's pronounced at the back of the throat instead of forward in the mouth. Listen to Idit say this letter.
It's actually closer to the German or French "R" but without the roll.
Nearly all sounds in Hebrew are identical to English, like the "K," "V," and "T" sounds in this example. Since you already know how to pronounce most of these sounds, we only need to pay attention to the handful of sounds that are completely new to you. They're the ones we need look out for.
In the previous lesson, we taught you how to say "thank you" in Hebrew. Do you remember what it was?
Well done! Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Hebrew has 22 letters, but even more sounds. The extra sounds come from the vowels and the consonants that can represent two sounds instead of one. Many of the the sounds in Hebrew are identical to the sounds in English. And there are only a handful of new sounds that you need to learn.
We've covered only the basics of Hebrew pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check our "Ultimate Guide to Hebrew Pronunciation." In that video series, we teach you how to pronounce every single sound used in Hebrew.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Hebrew grammar, where you'll learn about Hebrew word order, and how to build basic phrases in Hebrew.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!