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 writing.
The Hebrew Alphabet
In Hebrew, we use two different scripts, one for print and one for handwriting.
Most people learn the printed script first and even learn to write their letters this way in block letters.
These are called
אותיות דפוס
otiyot d'fus
"print letters"
Printed letters are rarely used for handwriting other than in elementary school, so most people learn script letters very quickly after learning the printed letters.
Script letters are called
אותיות כתב
otiyot k'tav
"script letters"
One thing you don't have to worry about in Hebrew is capital letters. There is only one case for letters in Hebrew.
The Alphabet Letters and Nikud
Here's some general information about Hebrew letters. Hebrew is read right to left, the opposite of English. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and they are all consonants.
You may be thinking, "but what about vowels, right?"
In Hebrew, vowels are written with a system of dots called ניקוד. These dots are placed underneath or next to the letter in order to let you know what vowel comes after the consonant.
Here is the word for "dog," כלב, without nukud: כלב. And here it is with nikud: כֶּלֶב
Let's do the same with the word for "boy," ילד. Without nikud, it's: ילד. And with nikud, it looks like this: יֶלֶד
Those are both with "eh" vowels. Let's look at one with some other vowels.
How about the word for "mountains": הרים. Here it is with nikud: הָרִים. This has both an "ah" vowel and an "i" vowel.
Although this is very useful when you're learning Hebrew, don't get used to it. Most things in Hebrew are written without the vowel dots.
That intimidates many learners of Hebrew, but don't despair. The reason we usually don't use ניקוד when writing Hebrew is that we don't really need it.
That's right. Hebrew is very systematic and structured. It's very methodical and logical. Words are created according to patterns and this helps you figure out what vowels are used in the words.
You already know the word for dog, which is כלב. Next time you see this word, you don't need to see the vowels because you know they are there.
Most Hebrew learning material will include the vowel points, but once you start reading from other sources, like the newspaper or books, you'll have to rely on what you've learned.
Letter Specifics
There are some letters in Hebrew that will indicate what vowels are present. These letters are technically consonants, but can behave like vowels.
א, ה, ו, י, ע
aleph, heh, vav, yod, ayin
For example, the letter ה often ends a word with an "ah" or an "eh" sound, like in the words לילה for "night" and בונה, the masculine singular form of "build."
There are five letters that change form when they're at the end of a word, but they're still the same letter.
כ - ך, מ - ם, נ - ן, פ - ף, צ - ץ
khaf/khaf-sofit, mem/mem-sofit, nun/nun-sofit, feh/feh-sofit, tzadi/tzadi-sofit
Here's an example of how this works. The letter mem looks like this in the beginning or middle of a word, מ, like in the word for "stage," במה.
When it comes at the end, it looks like this: ם, like in the word for the "sea," ים.
Three letters can have two different sounds depending on whether they are in a stressed position or not.
ב is both "b" and "v." In the word במה, or "stage," it makes a "b" sound. And in the word for dog, or כלב, it makes a "v" sound.
כ is both "k" and "kh." For this example, we can use the word for dog again. In כלב this letter makes a "k" sound, and in the word for "correct," which is נכון, it makes a "kh" sound. This letter also has a special end form that looks like this ך. When it comes at the end of a word, like חיוך, the word for "smile," it's always pronounced "kh."
פ is both "p" and "f." In the word פרפר, or "butterfly," this letter is pronounced with a "p" sound. In the word for "book," or ספר, it's pronounced with an "f" sound.
There are also six pairs of letters that at one point in history had different sounds, but today sound very similar.
א and ע, ב and ו, ח and כ, ט and ת, כּ and ק, ס and שׂ
aleph and ayin, vet and vav, het and khaf, tet and tav, kaf and kuf, samekh and sin
For example, the words טלפון, meaning "telephone," and תשובה, meaning "answer," begin with two different letters of the alphabet. But you would never know that unless you saw them written.
The Alphabet as Numbers
One interesting aspect of the Hebrew alphabet is the letters also represent numbers.
א represents the number one. ב represents the number two and so on. When you get to the number ten, or י, we add the first nine letters to it to represent eleven through 19.
The letters can be combined to create numbers into the hundreds and thousands.
You can find the first ten letters used as numbers in many day to day contexts.
For instance, Sunday is ofter referred to as יום א or Day 1. The first semester in university is called סמסטר א'.
yom aleph
"first day or Sunday"
semester aleph
"first semester"
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that there are two different scripts used to write Hebrew, printed script and written script. Hebrew is written and read from right to left. All 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are consonants. There are also vowels in Hebrew, and these are written with a dot system. Some letters in Hebrew cover two sounds, and other sounds are covered by two letters. And lastly, the Hebrew alphabet can also be used to represent numbers.
We've covered only the very basics of Hebrew writing. If you want to learn more, check out our "Learn Hebrew Writing" video series.
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Hebrew boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Hebrew right away!
See you in the next lesson. Bye!