One of the early challenges for me with this course is the pronunciation of aleph, which seems to have a myriad of different pronunciations depending on what other letters it's paired with.
Would I be correct in understanding that aleph sounds like quite an open "ah" when appearing before and after bet, and also before chet, but more like an "ee" when preceding mem and a sort of "aw" sound when it comes before vav?
"א" is a silent letter. Look at it as a resting place for vowels. More often than not, it seems to have an "ah" sound. But, it can have the other vowel sounds, as well. If it has a "vav/ו" following it "או", it will have an "o/oh" or an "u/oo" sound like in the word "boot". If it has a "yod/י" following it, it will usually, it seems, be pronounced "i/ee" and other times "e/ai". In these examples, vav and yod are acting as vowels. These are the only rules I'm aware of off the top of my head. Remember, though, that "א" can be a "resting place" for the vowels without another letter in association with it, e.g. "אבא /abba", "אמא /ima", "אגוז /ehgoz" (nut).
Update: I just went through all the "א" entries in my dictionary. As a rule of thumb, it seems that in modern Hebrew, "א"s by themselves will virtually always be pronounced "ah" or "eh". For an "o/oh" or "u/oo" sound, alef will be followed by vav "או", and for an "i/ee" or "e/ai" sound alef will be followed by yod "י".
Boy, that was a lot of work! But, I learned something, too.
No. "And" and "or" are written differently and pronounced differently. "And" is "ו" and is pronounced "va". It is always attached to the word that follows it. "Or" is "או" and is pronounced "o/oh". It is a separate word. You got over your confusion pretty quickly. It's only been four months and you are already Level 12. Congratulations!
Hebrew letters are not taught here like Japanese symbols are taught but, there is an explanation of the alef-bet and how the letters are pronounced in the tips section of lesson 1. You can also go to Memrise and check out the Hebrew alef-bet and Hebrew class that is coordinated with the Duolingo program.
I recommend getting the DuoKeyboard plugin, which works well with Firefox and Chrome (probably other browsers too, but definitely those two). Failing that, open up the Hebrew page of Lexilogos in another tab and copy and paste your answers from there. Not as efficient as the DuoKeyboard, but still reasonably useful. Google Translate can be extremely unreliable. Might be OK for extremely easy word-for-word translations, but once you start to venture into more complex territory, Google Translate will start letting you down badly.
As I said to ElanaDewey above, get the DuoKeyboard plugin. You can set that to bring up a Hebrew keyboard when doing English-Hebrew exercises (obviously, leave it on the default setting when translating from Hebrew into English!). Another option is to use the LexiLogos site, which has all manner of foreign alphabets, including the Hebrew one. You'll need to have that open in another tab and copy and paste. Rather less efficient than the DuoKeyboard plugin, but it still works.
I'm confused by the question mark (?) . Why isn't the "?" translated in the answer to be "mom and dad ?" Instead of just "mom and dad without the question mark for "?xnxi x>x ( i don't have Hebrew font that is the closest representation i can think of with English font. Please explain why the answer omits the "?" ?
In the U.S., "Dad and mom" isn't very formal. "Father and mother" would be formal. "Daddy and mommy" is what little kids say (though, oddly, some people call their fathers "daddy" even as adults, but "mommy" is definitely little-kid talk).
A mummy, on the other hand, is a mummified corpse. ;) lol I've always thought that a strange dialectal oddity.