Hebrew Language Blog

Learning the Hebrew Alef-Bet – Part 2 Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Learning Hebrew, Uncategorized

Today’s date: 19th of Adar, 5772 – י״ט באדר תשע״ב

שלום! and welcome to part two of this series on learning to read Hebrew. In this post, I’ll be giving you some new letters, and some practice reading some Hebrew sentences. Ready to get started?

Our first letter is שׁ (sheen – שִׁין) and has the sound of “sh” as in “shy.”

אִישׁ – (eesh – man)
אִישָׁה – (ee-sha – woman)

The letter sin שׂ (pronounced “seen”) uses the same look as sheen, but notice the positioning of the dot. If a dot appears to the upper right of the letter, then you pronounce it “sh”; if it appears to the left, pronounce it “s.” In normal everyday Hebrew (newspapers, magazines, websites, etc) the dot is not usually there so you’ll have to go by context to see what sound to use.

Here’s a little grammar note. In English we have the word ‘the’. In Hebrew it is -הַ/-הָ (ha). It is attached directly to the word it belongs to, and pronounced as a part of the word.

הָאִישׁ – (ha-eesh – the man)
הָאִישָׁה – (ha-ee-sha – the woman)

If you looked carefully, the vowel under ‘hey’ has two different forms. These change depend on whether the noun begins with a regular letter or a guttural letter. The rules to use it are somewhat complicated to explain here. But in a nutshell, “ha-” uses the vowel “qamets” (-אָ) when attached to the letters א, ה, ח, ע, ר. These are the guttural letters. Otherwise it uses the vowel “patach” (-אַ). Pay attention to how I’m using them in all future postings, I’ll be using the vowels so you will know how to pronounce it.

ר (resh / raysh – רֵישׁ)
The twentieth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is called “resh” (pronounced “raysh” in Israel) and has the sound of “r” as in the French word Paris. It’s made like a light gargling sound in the back of the throat.

הַר (har – mountain)
שִׁיר (sheer – song, poem)
שָׁם (sham – name)

Let’s take a couple more vowels. The first one we’ll look at is אֵ. It looks like two horizontally aligned dots and is pronounced like the ‘e’ in met. Practice it with these words:

תֵה (te – tea),
הִינֵה (hee-ne – there (indicating where someone or something is located)),
מֵאַיִן (me-‘ah-yeen – where from?)

The second vowel we need is אֶ. Three dots under the consonant. It is also pronounced like the ‘e’ in met. Practice with these words:

שֶׁמֶשׁ (she-mesh – sun),
מֶ (me – from)

ל (lamed – לָמֶד)
The twelfth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is called “lamed” (pronounced “la-med”) and has the sound of “l” as in “look.”

שֶׁל (shell – of/belonging to)
יִשְׂרָאֵל (ees-ra-el – Israel)

ד (dalet / daled – דָּלֶת)
The fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is called “dalet” (pronounced “dah-let”) and has the sound of “d” as in “door.” Note: Like gimel, dalet can also sometimes have a dot in the middle of the letter (דּ), but this does not affect its pronunciation: with or without the dot, it is still pronounced “d” as in door.

תַלְמִיד (tal-meed – (male) student)
תַלְמִידָה (tal-meed-a – (female) student)
יֶלֶד (ye-led – boy)
יַלְדָה (yal-da – girl)

Did you notice what I did? I stuck in a vowel sign without telling you. But it’s not a problem. the sign I gave is called “sh-vah” and looks like two vertically aligned dots under the consonant (אְ). For the most part, this vowel is not pronounced. So that’s why in the word תַלְמִיד, the letters lamed and mem are pronounced together without a vowel in between. I will point out in the future when and how this vowel is used and pronounced. So for now, learn to recognize it and see how I write it in the pronunciation.

ג (gimel – גִּימֵל) – This letter has the sound of “g” as in “girl.” Gimel can carry a dagesh (גּ), which does not affect its pronunciation in Modern Hebrew: with or without the dot it is still pronounced as “g” as in girl.

גְלִידָה (glee-da – ice cream)
גַם (gam – also, too)
דֶגֶל (de-gel – flag)
מַרְגָרִינָה (mar-gar-ee-na – margarine)

Reading Practice

So far we’ve covered about 32 words in Hebrew. Let’s take a few minutes to read some simple sentences using what you know.

?מִי אַת – Who are you? (said to a female)
mee at?
?מִי אַתָה – Who are you? (said to a male)
mee a-ta?
אֲני – I am [name]
a-nee [your name here]
אֲני מִישׂרָאֵל – I am from Israel.
a-nee mees-ra-el

That’s the end of this lesson. I hope you’re enjoying it so far. See you in the next post!

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About the Author: Sean Young

Learning languages since 1978 and studying over 50 (achieving fluency in 10). Sean L. Young loves giving tips, advice and the secrets you need to learn a language successfully no matter what language you're learning. Currently studying Hindi and blogging his progress right here at Transparent Language - https://blogs.transparent.com/language-news.


  1. Randy:

    Toda raba for two great lessons on the alef-bet Sean.

  2. Sean Young:

    בבקשה (beh-vah-kah-shah). I hope you’ll enjoy the other two (three?) posts and the others I’ll posting here in the future. 🙂

  3. Da:

    Hi! I have recently started learning Hebrew.

    Many female words end with qamats + the letter he: eesh/ee-sha, tal-meed/tal-meed-a, ye-led/yal-da, tov/tova…

    So, what is please the rule of mee a-ta to a male, and mee at to a female?

    Thank you very much in advance.