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Hebrew Time #3: ABC ... Meet the Hebrew alphabet!

Hello everyone!

שלום לכולם!

Shalom lekulam!

Welcome to the third Hebrew Time, our topic for today is – the Hebrew alphabet.

For those of us who are joining now – Hebrew Time is a series of weekly posts about the Hebrew language, Israel, and the Jewish people.

You can see the previous post here :


So let's begin :D

The Hebrew alphabet is built from 22 letters, with another 5 "ending letters" which we will talk about later.

There are two kinds of alphabet sets in use, rather like the set of capital letters “ABCDEFG…” and lower-case letters “abcdefg…” but in Hebrew we use them for different things. The “block” alphabet is used for printing (books, newspapers, online articles) and computer fonts and anything vaguely official. It is formed of very angular letters with lots of straight lines. The “script” alphabet is purely used for handwritten things and is much more cursive. Today we’re going to focus just on the “block” alphabet.

Ok, so this is the Hebrew alphabet:

Alef: א

Pronunciation: "A" – usually pronounce like "A" in English.

Examples for words: אדם (Adam) – Human; אבא (Aba) – Father.

Beit: ב,בּ

This letter has two forms which are different in their pronunciation.

For :בּ

Pronunciation: "B".

For :ב

Pronunciation: "V".

Examples for words: בּית (Bait) – House; בּלון (Balon) – Balloon; (At the beginning of words you only usually get the stopped form “b”. This generally applies to all the letters with a stopped form and a vocal form).

Gimel: ג', ג

For ג:

Pronunciation: "G".

Examples for words: גמל (Gamal) – Camel; גשם (Geshem) – Rain.

For 'ג:

Pronunciation: "J".

This form is used in Hebrew to pronounce words which are not originally from Hebrew but from other languages.

Dalet: ד

Pronunciation: "D".

Examples for words: דלת(Delet) – Door; דשא(Deshe) – Grass;

Hey: ה

Pronunciation: "H".

Examples for words: הולנדית(Holandit) – Dutch; התקדמות (Hitkadmut) – Progress.

Vav: ו

Pronunciation: "V".

Examples for words: וירוס (Virus) – Virus; וילון (Vilon) – Curtain.

Zayin: ז

Pronunciation: "Z".

Examples for words: זרם(Zerem) – Stream; זז(Zaz) – Moving.

Chet: ח

Pronunciation: "Ch".

Examples for words: חיים(Chayim) – Life; חלום(Chalom) – Dream.

Tet: ט

Pronunciation: "T".

Examples for words: טווס (Tavas) – Peacock; טור(Tur) – Column.

Yod: י

Pronunciation: "Y".

Pronunciation: ילד(Yeled) – Boy; יהלום(Yahalom) – Diamond.

Kaf: כ, כּ

This letter has two forms which are different in their pronunciation.

For כ:

Pronunciation: "Ch".

For כּ:

Pronunciation: "K".

Examples for words: כּלב(Kelev) – Dog; כּדור(Kadur) – Ball.

Lamed: ל

Pronunciation: "L"

Examples for words: למד(Lamad) – Learned; לא(Lo) – No.

Mem: מ

Pronunciation: "M".

Examples for words: מידע(Meyda) – Information; מילה(Mila) – Word.

Nun: נ

Pronunciation: "N".

Examples for words: נכון(Nachon) – Correct; נשמה(Neshama) – Soul.

Samech: ס

Pronunciation: "S".

Examples for words: סמל(Semel) – Symbol; סליחה(Slicha) – Sorry.

Ayin: ע

Pronunciation: "Ah" -> this pronunciation doesn't exist in English and is more typical for Semitic languages. It is similar to Alef: א, but it’s pronounced further back in the throat, a gutteral “A”. The majority of the general Hebrew-speaking population make no distinction between the pronunciation of ע and א.

Examples for words: עולם(Olam) – World; עברית(Ivrit) – Hebrew (=

Pey: פ, פּ

This letter has two forms which are different in their pronunciation.

For פ:

Pronunciation: "F".

For פּ:

Pronunciation: "P".

Examples for words: פּרפר(Parpar) – Butterfly; פּשוט(Pashut) – Simple.

Tzadik: צ',צ

For צ:

Pronunciation: "Tz".

Examples for words: צרצר(Tzartzar) – Cricket; צלם(Tzalam) – Photographer.

For 'צ :

Pronunciation: "Ch" -> like in the English word "Change".

This form is used in Hebrew to pronounce words which are not originally from Hebrew but from other languages.

Kuf: ק

Pronunciation: "K".

Examples for words: קוף(Kof) – Monkey; קשר(Kesher) – Contact.

Reysh: ר

Pronunciation: "R".

Examples for words: ראש (Rosh) – Head; ראשון(Rishon) – First. As discussed in the comments of the first Hebrew Time, this “r” is pronounced right at the back of the throat, similar to the German “r”.

Shin: ש, שׂ

This letter has two forms which are different in their pronunciation.

For ש:

Pronunciation: "Sh".

For שׂ:

Pronunciation: "S". Nowadays this is identical to Samech ס but it’s like this - as with many other “duplicate” letters - because of historical reasons.

Examples for words: שלום(Shalom) – Hello; שיר(Shir) – Song; שׂחקן(Sachkan) - Player.

And the last letter –

Taf: ת', ת

For ת:

Pronunciation: "T".

Examples for words: תודה(Toda) – Thank you; תמיד(Tamid) – Always.

For ת':

Pronunciation: "Th".

This form is used in Hebrew to pronounce words which are not originally from Hebrew but from other languages. (Fun fact: Historically ת used to be pronounced “th” depending on its position in the word, but it’s no longer the case, which is why we’ve ended up with two “t” sounds. Compare the word “Sabbath” to the Hebrew word שבּת - “shabbat”).

Ok, now you know the Hebrew alphabet!! Yay!

Now, as I said we will talk about "Ending letters":

When 5 of the letters in Hebrew come at the end of the word, they look differently (but pronounced the same - like the Greek sigma σ/ς).

The letters are: כ(Kaf) , מ(Mem), נ(Nun), פ(Pey), צ(Tzadik).

Their ending letters looks like this:

כ –> ך

מ –> ם

נ –> ן

פ –> ף

צ -> ץ

You now know the Hebrew alphabet!! -> If you have any questions you can ask freely in the comments or privately, we will be happy to answer :D

(Some of you might be aware that some of the letters are pronounced differently when they act as vowels and wondering what is going- this is beyond the scope of today’s course:) Today we were just focussing on learning the actual alphabet and the pronunciation of the letters as consonants:)

Before we finish, here is a children song in Israel for the Hebrew alphabet :) :


And we can't finish without telling you:


Le'itraot! = See you later!

This was the third Hebrew Time, I hope you had a great Hebrew Time and learned a lot !

Support the future Hebrew for English speakers course so we (the future Hebrew team) will be able to work on it !

If you are a Hebrew speaker - contribute to the Hebrew for English speakers course in the Incubator and help us (:


Thanks for MaeMcA (https://www.duolingo.com/MaeMcA) from our Hebrew course future team, for helping me to write this post :D

That's it! Good Afternoon!

!צהריים טובים

Tzohoraim Tovim!

January 21, 2015



Love the series! Keep it going!


We will :):):):)


Have you already applied to the Hebrew for English speakers course? I applied a few months ago and I think we almost have enough volunteers to start.


Yea I applied for a few times... And I think too (:


Wow what's with Duolingo? So many have applied and still no Hebrew


It takes a lot of work, time, and manpower to add a course to Duolingo. Even if there are more than enough qualified applicants, it's still far more complicated than that.


did any of you wrote that he wants to be a moderator? maybe that's why they don't let us create the course. by the way I also applied.


The working proccess for this course is doing well.


I think there are probably hundreds of people who have already applied! It's not a matter of volunteers, I don't think. The mysterious workings of the incubator...


Yes I've heard of an English for English speakers course. Crazy and creepy at the same time


Thanks that really helped me and im jewish to!!


תודה רבה עכשיו יש לנו בסיס ללמוד עברית ,אז יש מקרים לדגירה Thank you. Lets hope the incubation begins soon. (Excuse me if my hebrew is horrible)


This was interesting! I'm looking for my 2017 language (I'm planning on doing one language a year) and it might be Hebrew.


Thank you for a great explanation! May I ask a question? Is Ancient Hebrew and Modern Hebrew(which I believe what you are explaining is) very different? Or if one knows Modern Hebrew, does that make him/her way much easier to learn Ancient Hebrew?


we understand most of it , kind of like Shakespearean English vs modern English


Hey (:

We do understand Biblical Hebrew (Ancient Hebrew), but there are some words and phrases that are not being used today, or words that are used, but due to the technological advences and multiple job options, those words are not neccessary used when working(usually professional words which are connected to roles that are not relvant for today, or many people don't work at anymore - like agriculture).

Another thing is the grammar - it has changed in many parameters and subjects(verb forms, sentence structures, tenses and more).

An interesting change is something called "the dual form". This form describes nouns in couples, and it was used in the Biblical Hebrew and some other periods in the past(there was Singular - Dual - Plural). In the Modern Hebrew we can see in some words the dual form which is used as plurals - for example body parts that come in couples(lips, eyes, hands, legs etc.).

The only subject that kept the idea of Singular - Dual - Plural is time. For example there is in the Modern Hebrew words for tomorrow and in two days , words for year - two years - years etc.

I hope that I answered your question properly (:

Thanks for your support!


Thank you lolalilach and DvirBartov for your explanations :) I look forward to Hebrew course!


Hi, just wanted to add my two cents :) I speak Modern Hebrew and I teach Biblical Hebrew at A-level (in UK) and knowing one definitely helps with the other. My MH speaking pupils find BH much easier, and they all agree that BH helps with MH. They complement each other well but there definitely are differences between the two - MH as a spoken language was formed relatively recently whereas BH is completely based on the text from Tanach (the Bible). I find it very interesting :) and I love the grammar!


Thank you for your reply SparklieSpeak :) I can see how much you love your language. I wish I get a chance to read the Bible in Hebrew in the future


As always very interesting thank you! I cant tell you how many times ive had the aleph bet shoved in my head never seems to stick though :/


Which "th" is 'ת? Like that in "thigh" or in "thy?" Or both?

For ח and כ, I'm not sure "ch" is the best representation of the sound to put here. True, that's the most common way of transliterating it, but beginners may think it to be the sound in "chair", not in "loch" or "Buch."


Yes I've read on a website that the ch is like the German ich



Yes about the 'ת, both.

About the Ch - I agree, I thought about it when I wrote this, but this is the best way of teaching it..

When we make a Hebrew course we will have also the voice part, this one will put things clearly.

Thanks for the comment (:


Thank you! It would be great if Hebrew course apperaed


Thank you! I already had a grasp of the letters but I really want to learn modern Hebrew.


Thank you for these lessons :) I hope a Hebrew course starts soon.


Toda! Another great lesson from the future Hebrew team :) I knew most of this already having learnt Biblical Hebrew as a child, but I still learnt some more. A friend recently told me about the addition to the gimmel to make it a 'J' sound, but I didn't realise that other letters could be changed in the same way too. Toda! Looking forward to lesson number 4 :)


The 'ג that has a 'J' sound is in Modern Hebrew. This sound is sometimes produced in Biblical Hebrew too; some Jewish communities (eg Yemenites) pronounce a gimmel with a dagesh (a dot in the middle) as a 'J'.


I wondered if that may have been the case. Thanks :)


So cool! (: In Persian, we say Tavoos when referring to a peacock! Neat! Awesome similarities (:


Yes Persian incorporated a lot of Arabic loan words though it is still an Indo European language. And of course Arabic and Hebrew are closely related :)


That is the truth! (:


It sure is! I'd love to see both Arabic and Hebrew here on Duolingo :)


Personally I would love to see a Persian course here, though I am fluent in the language! =D


The sane way I would love to see an Igbo course though it is my native language :)


פוסט מצויין. עבודה מעולה!


Great work ! I find that 'Kh' better represents the ׳ח׳ sound. Same goes for 'Ts' for the 'צ' sound.


That's right.. It is similar, but the "ch" is used more often in order to describe the letter "ח".


I only found these "Hebrew Times" today and I'm so excited! I love Hebrew, I hope it makes it into the incubator. I did apply to contribute... waiting for a response :)

!איזה כיף


Eeeee תודה רבה I am mostly self taught with Hebrew so while I'm hoping to see a Duolingo course eventually, it's really exciting to see people willing to help potential Hebrew speakers. I should probably attempt a little here, make myself have a go. אני שרה, אני מדברת אנגלית, אני אוהבת עברית. אני מדברת רוסית... Okay, it's somehow messing with my word order (there's an אני in there that is in totally the wrong place, grrrr) so I will stop here, but this is me (hopefully) explaining what languages I do speak and my appreciation for Hebrew! I will be watching out for more posts in this series. להתראות! (And my exclamation mark is in the wrong place can I growl in Hebrew? גררררררר



Thanks for the support :D

The אני is the right place =) your sentences are alright!

And yes there is a problem with the text alignment in Duolingo - it can't align to the right...

So this is the reason why the exclamation mark is in the wrong place, I hope that right alignment will be supported in the future (:

Thank you!

תודה רבה!


I think it must be a combination of that and this screen, it's split up part of one of my sentences which is really weird...! Maybe it will encourage me to find and install Hebrew on my laptop which might work better...

So cool to see so much interest in Hebrew, I would be so thrilled to see Duolingo let you guys get started on a Hebrew course - here's hoping! תודה רבה :D


Toda, great post.


רק אל תשכחו שכאשר פ או כ נמצאות בסוף מילה אבל הן בדגש, הן לא בצורתן הסופית (כמו למשל במילה קטשופ)

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