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Learning Hebrew Letters and Their Sounds

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

Before you can learn to read or write Hebrew, you'll need to become familiar with the Hebrew alphabet and symbols. This article for beginners will introduce the letters and help you to distinguish between them. Download of Hebrew alphabet chart available.

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    Letters of the Hebrew Alphabet

    Before you can learn how to read or write in Hebrew, it is important to be able to recognize the names of sounds of each of the Hebrew letters. Here is a downloadable chart of the Hebrew Alphabet, along with their names and English letter equivalents. The letters are read from left to right, as opposed to most western languages that are read from right to left.

    There are a few points that are important to notice.

    Some of the pronunciations are written in two ways. This is because some sects of Hebrew speakers use both the taf and the suf (such as most hassidim), and others use just the taf (such as sefaradim and modern Israelis).

    Several letters contain the word sofit/sofis after them. Some letters can never end a Hebrew word, but the sofit version makes the same sound and is only used to end a word. Sofit literally means "of the end."

    Several pairs of letters are identical except for a mapik, or dot, in the center of one. The dot changes the pronunciation of the letter completely. For example, pay and fay are identical other than the mapik, but one makes a "p" sound and one makes an "f" sound.

    The shin and sin are the same base letter, but the identity of the letter depends on whether there is a dot to the right or the left of the base. A shin has a dot to the right, and a sin has a dot to the left.

    These letters are written in Hebrew print. Hebrew script letters are written entirely differently.

    The aleph and ayin are silent, but they serve an important purpose. Because vowels in Hebrew are represented by nekudot that go under the letters, the aleph and the ayin can act as stand-alone vowels.

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    Letter Name Pronunciation

    א | Aleph |(silent)

    בּ | Bet/Baiz |B

    ב | Vet/Vaiz | V

    ג | Gimel | G

    ד | Dalet | D

    ה | Hay | H

    ו | Vav | V

    ז | Zayin | Z

    ח | Chet/Ches | Ḥ

    ט | Tet/Tes T

    י | Yud | Y

    כּ | Kaf | K

    כ | Ḥ | of Ḥ

    ך | Ḥ of Sofit/Sofis | Ḥ

    ל | Lamed | L

    מ | Mem | M

    ם | Mem Sofit/Sofis | M

    נ | Nun | N

    ן | Nun Sofit/Sofis | N

    ס | Sameḥ | S

    ע | Ayin | (Silent)

    פּ | Pay | P

    פ | Fay | F

    צ | Tzadi | Tz

    ץ | Tzadi Sofit/Sofis | Tz

    ק | Kuf | K

    ר | Raish | R

    שׁ | Shin | Sh

    שׂ | Sin | S

    תּ | Taf | T

    ת | Suf | S