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• Vowels are indicated by dots and dashes below and above the letters, but most modern texts are ‘unpointed’ i.e. the vowel signs do not generally appear in written material today. (They do appear in many biblical and liturgical texts.) • The square script you see here is used in printed material while a much more rounded cursive script (often referred to simply as ‘script’) is used for handwriting.
The Aleph Bet Let’s now look at the Hebrew alphabet (see the chart on the next page). It may seem daunting at first, but if you go through it slowly it should soon make sense. We have included the handwritten script for future reference, but for now you should just concentrate on the printed form. There are various ways to remember the letters; one way is to look at the letter, read the corresponding transliteration and pronunciation guide and try to create an image to relate the two. Some are easier than others: for instance, look down the transliteration list until you come to the letter r; the Hebrew letter for that sound is ¯ which looks like a mirror image of the English r. Look down the list for l, in Hebrew it is Ï ; we have used the word ‘lightning’ in our pronunciation guide since you could, with a little imagination, liken this letter to a flash of lightning. Mnemonics such as these can be a great help, but you may simply prefer to concentrate on noticing the shape of the letters in detail, such as the plinth at the base of the letter · . Don’t worry about working the chart too hard. The exercises that follow will help you to distinguish the letters and give you practice in recognizing them. And of course you can always refer to the chart as you work through the book.
Colloquial hebrew: Easy and enjoyable lessons in Hebrew