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How to Learn the Hebrew Alphabet

How to learn the Hebrew alphabet

At first it may sound weird, but the best way to learn the Hebrew alphabet is by listening. And no, I don’t mean listening to a Hebrew version of The Alphabet Song. What I mean is listening to recordings of simple dialogs or simple texts.

What you need is: audio recordings of several texts, the text and the translation of it into English and - if it is available - also transliteration (what I mean by transliteration is – Hebrew text written using Latin alphabet).

Of course you can take any text, however, it will be more enjoyable if you take a text prepared for people learning Hebrew. Often you will find there very basic vocabulary and you will learn a couple of letters at a time – not the whole alphabet.
Let me give you an example of such a lesson.

  • Good Morning (lit. Morning Good) - בוקר טוב - boker tov
  • Good Morning (lit. Morning (of) Light) - בוקר אור - boker or

As you can see, what we learn here is just 6 letters (out of 22) and 2 very useful phrases.

As I’ve written in the beginning, you don’t start by reading. First day you don’t read at all. Instead, you should take the recording, put on your headphones, listen to the recording 5 times, and try to repeat aloud what you hear – it should be done simultaneously, so don’t wait until the end of the phrase. And remember – it’s not important at all if you’ve said it correctly. After some repetitions you’ll say it correctly. But in the beginning, don’t strive for perfection.

Next day you have to listen to the same recording another 5 times, but this time you should also read the text while listening.  You are not really reading at this stage of course, but you are getting used to the foreign alphabet. Letters represent the sounds of spoken language. So your brain has to accept, slowly, that the sounds you hear are represented by those strange symbols. After all, you’ve done the same with your mother tongue. You’ve heard words/phrases/dialogs many times in your native language and at some point of time, someone has told you – oh, by the way, if you want to write it down, use these symbols.

And that’s not the end of the second day yet. Now, when you’ve done some more practice with the first lesson, take the recording of the second lesson and listen to it a couple of times (while saying aloud what you hear).

In the following days you should do the same, you should analyze the previous lessons more closely, and add one more lesson. And you should do it until you know the first lesson so well that you can get rid of it. At this point you don’t have to read it, but you should continue adding new lessons.

One more caution regarding transliteration. It is useful in the very beginning, but don’t use it too long. In the beginning it can help you to get familiar with a new script. But the ultimate goal is to read the Hebrew script.