Hebrew doesn't distinguish the vowels with letters such as English and similar languages. Hebrew vowels are indicated by symbols known as NIKUD (ניקוד) which appear as small lines or dots over, above or in between letters. There are two letters which act as vowels as well – VAV (ו) and YOD (י).
Most Hebrew texts don't include vowels unless precise pronunciation is necessary, such as documents that are meant for beginner readers, dictionary entries etc.
Although Hebrew vowels are different than the vowels in English and its rules are different, the essential vowels are similar to the English AEIOU. In order to be understood and understand Hebrew correctly it's enough to understand the Hebrew AEIOU symbols.
We will now present the basic Hebrew vowels and their equivalent vowels in English:
|English Vowel||Hebrew symbol||Sound||As in...|
|A||אָ אַ אֲ||Ah||Father, Papa|
|E||אֵ אֱ אֶ (see note)||Eh||Lemon|
|I||אִ אִי Sounds formed by a vowel followed by the letter YOD (י).||Eye||Aisle, Chai|
|O||אֹ אוֹ Sounds are formed with a dot above the letter VAV (ו) or above and to the right of any other consonant.||Oh||Home|
(The vowel - ְis not always sounded. It is sounded at the beginning of a word. It is silent at the end and middle of the word, except where there are two consecutive vertical dots ְ ְ - The second of the two is always sounded.)
were developed in the early middle ages, after the correct pronunciation of words and letters were passed down through generations through tradition. The vowels in Hebrew make it easy to read and understand Hebrew texts, such as the bible, dictionaries, poetry, etc. The rules of writing and reading the vowels have many intricacies. Nevertheless, if one understands the basics of the vowels, reading Hebrew can become an easier task than expected.
In the same way as syllables, there are many intricacies and rules that have to do with the vowels. Nevertheless, having an acquaintance with the basic vowels above will help you read any Hebrew text with vowels.
Understanding Hebrew vowels make learning Hebrew much easier. Hebrew letters and the vowels make up syllables, which assemble Hebrew words. After reading texts in Hebrew with NIKUD, Hebrew vowels, reading plain Hebrew texts without vowels will come to you more naturally. There is a wide variety of easy Hebrew texts with vowels with which you may practice reading the vowels in Hebrew. On the one hand, there are the bible and poetry books. On the other hand, if you wish to read easier texts you can find many easy to read texts in this internet site and in other, all geared towards people of all ages who wish to learn basic Hebrew.
The next lessons will talk about Hebrew vocabulary and grammar. We invite you to keep advancing through our online Hebrew course, helping you to acquire reading and speech abilities in Hebrew.