Hebrew translation to English

On the various Hebrew learning Facebook groups that I am part of, there are many members who ask for a Hebrew translation to English. They might post the transliteration, or the actual Hebrew text, but regardless of how they present the it, they are asking for Hebrew translation to English.

Is Hebrew translation to English even possible?

A direct Hebrew translation to English is possible for some words, but not for all. Sometimes Hebrew uses a phrase that just cannot be translated. Let us have a look at an example. In the prayer, the V’ahavta, there is a phrase “oo’v’khol m’o’de’kha”, which the Hebrew translation is in your veriness”.

If one looks how it is translated, the word “veriness” is not a very common word at all. The editors of the siddur have translated the word slightly differently, to “might”. The phrase now reads “with all your might”. So is the exact Hebrew translation to English always possible. The answer is no.

Knowledge of Hebrew grammar

To be able to complete an accurate translation, one needs a thorough knowledge of Hebrew grammar. At a basic level, Hebrew grammar is made up of nouns, verbs, suffixes and prefixes. Furthermore, in Hebrew there are masculine and feminine nouns and verbs.

 A knowledge of these basic grammatical rules can help one with easy translation. Another basic grammatical rule that helps making translating easier, is being able to recognise the root letters of a word, or the shoresh. Each verb has either 2, 3 or 4 root letters. Being able to recognise them is the first step to accurate translating.

Once these are recognised, then even if the actual meaning of the word cannot be translated exactly, then at least the essence of the word can. Recognising verbs, suffixes and prefixes is a great start to translating Hebrew into English!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *