learn how to read hebrew
learn how to read hebrew

Learn how to read Hebrew

We hear the word ‘how’ so frequently in our day-to-day conversation, but rarely do we look at the meaning of the word. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘how’ is defined as in what way or manner; by what means. The phrase learn how to read Hebrew examines in what way or manner a person can learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet.

Learn how to read Hebrew text

A person needs to learn how to read Hebrew text, as it is entirely different from that of other languages. So, when a person starts thinking of the best way to learn how to read both biblical and modern Hebrew, it is necessary to explore different options. The optimum way is to go and live in Israel. There you will be forced to engage with this ancient Hebrew language every day. However, this is not a realistic option for the majority of people who are keen to learn this ancient text. Not everyone can give up their lives, wherever they are currently living, to achieve this goal. It requires a financial commitment and a commitment of time to move to Israel to study Hebrew.

Nonetheless, do not worry; there are lots of options available to you to learn how to read Hebrew wherever you are living. The most important way to do this is to find the right pathway. Depending on where you live, some options might be going to classes at your local synagogue or finding a like-minded group that is interested in the same topic with a tutor.

But, if you do not live anywhere near a synagogue or other classes, and you are keen to pursue this dream, another option is online learning. Yes, such courses do exist. All you need to do is type into one of the search engines, Google or Firefox, the phrase learn how to read Hebrew and a number of different courses, such as Easy Learn Hebrew will pop up.


Vowels, or Hebrew vowels as they are also referred to, should be included in the online course that you choose. Do not choose a course that does not teach the vowels; the Hebrew word for ‘vowel’ is nikkud, and ‘vowels’ is nikkudot. Indeed, Hebrew vowels are a vital tool to help you learn the pronunciation of words. Traditionally the Hebrew does not have nikkud, so for a beginner it is an essential tool.

It is different to English. In English, vowels are represented by a letter, such as ‘A’, or ‘O’, and so on. However, in Hebrew, the vowels are represented by dots and dashes and are found under or above a letter, or sometimes next to it. These dots and dashes might be confusing but are very important to help a person clarify accurate reading.

Indeed, the challenge will be if you go to Israel, most of the Hebrew text does not include the vowels. However, there is a Hebrew newspaper for beginners, called Yediot Akhoronot which is designed to be read by new Hebrew readers. It is written in simple Hebrew and includes the dots and dashes. It is an incredibly useful tool to read the news in Hebrew.

One thing that I noticed when I was Israel was how much of the biblical Hebrew has permeated into modern day Hebrew. However, this is not a coincidence. Ancient Hebrew, that has been a liturgical language for two thousand years, was revitalised into modern Hebrew in the nineteenth century. Even the word for God in modern Hebrew is the same as in biblical Hebrew.

Indeed, the foundation of Hebrew spoken in Israel today is based on biblical Hebrew. There are several nouns and verbs that were used in ancient Israel, and still used today in modern-day Israel, or a permeation of a particular word. The Hebrew verbs have two, three or four key letters (known as root letters) that form a pattern for different verb formations.

For example, the root letters for the verb ‘think’ are ‘kheit’, ‘shin’ and ‘veit’ (kh-sh-v). The modern-day Hebrew word for computer is makh’sheiv. It has the same root letters as the word ‘think’. It is very difficult to translate Hebrew into English exactly, however, one could say that the word makh’sheiv could be translated to be a ‘thinking machine’.

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