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Hebrew is a language that is terribly fun to read and even more fun to speak. Traditionally spoken by Jewish people, Hebrew has remained largely the same for three thousand years and is closely related to the Aramaic and Yiddish languages. Almost all of the Christian Old Testament of the Bible (also sometimes referred to as the Hebrew Scriptures) was originally written in Hebrew.

While some languages are grammatically precise, Hebrew (at least originally) was primarily an idea-based language. The idea behind the writing was more important than the writing itself. This means that, in many cases, two translations of the Old Testament can differ greatly in word choice, but the basic thought is the same.

Some Handy Hebrew Phrases

The transliterations are exaggerated for purposes of expressing proper pronunciation. All 'ch' sounds are pronounced the same as in 'Bach', and 'f' is for addressing a female.

Shalom (or more commonly, Allo)Hello
Lehitraot (that's ra-ote)I'll be seeing you.
Boker Tov (tove)Good morning.
Erev TovGood evening.
Layla TovGood night.
Mah shlomcha? (f: shlomeych?)How are you?
Camah zeh oleh?How much does this cost?
Shmi... /Korim li... My name is...
Eych korim l'cha? (f: lach?)What's your name?
Eyfo hasheyrutim?Where are the toilets?
Shtoke! (f: sht-ki!)Shut up!
Hey, bubah, yesh li mitah meachor latransit...Hey, baby, I've got a bed in the back of the truck...
Matay anu ochlim?When do we eat?
Lo kol kach charif, bevakashaNot too spicy, please.
L'hasgirTo extradite

The Hebrew Alphabet

The ancient Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters, all of which are consonants. Naturally, such a system posed a bit of a problem for many vowel-inclined Biblical scholars, so a group of Jewish scribes known as the Masoretes decided roughly 1000 years ago to add in various symbols above and below the consonants to fill in the vowels. While this did indeed make it easier to read Biblical Hebrew, it had the unfortunate effect of making it a whole lot less pleasant to look at.

  • Alef
  • Bet
  • Gimel
  • Dalet
  • Hey
  • Vav
  • Zayin
  • Chet
  • Tet
  • Yod
  • Kaf
  • Lamed
  • Mem
  • Nun
  • Samech
  • Ayin
  • Pey
  • Tzadi
  • Koof
  • Reish
  • Shin
  • Taf

Note that Kaf, Mem, Nun, Pey and Tzadi, when at the end of a word, are followed by 'sofit' - eg 'kaf sofit'.

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