How is Hebrew read

One of the many questions I get asked as a Hebrew teacher is “how is Hebrew read”. it is not as simple as answering: from right to left, the Hebrew reading needs to know every consonant and vowel; and that is just a starting point! When confronted with Hebrew text, for the non-native reader, it is extremely important to be able to decode each word individually.

The first step in knowing how is Hebrew read is to learn the Aleph Beit. The best way to have a memory hook, or a story, for each consonant and vowel. For example, the Reish is r-r-rounded, so it has the “r” sound, or the “eh” looks like an egg.

Once the student has learnt the consonants and vowels, the goal of knowing how is Hebrew read is only 50% achieved.  The student then needs to learn how to actually read the Hebrew words fluently. The best way to learn this, is to learn how to break up a Hebrew word into syllables.

I find, even now, having been reading Hebrew for over 30 years, if I come across a text that is complicated, or I am not familiar with it, I divide up the words into syllables with a pencil, and that really helps me with pronunciation.

It also helps me slow down in my reading, as I am not trying to read the whole word in one go, but rather, I am reading each individual syllable. I realise that this way of reading can be quite slow, but my motto is to read slowly and fluently, rather than quickly and making mistakes. Don’t forget, once a person can read Hebrew fluently, the speed will come.

It is important to remember, that for a person who was not born speaking Hebrew, Hebrew is not our native tongue, so we cannot expect to read fast and fluently immediately, it takes lots of practice. To reiterate, rather read slowly and fluently to achieve the best reading results.

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