Learn the Hebrew Alphabet Before Visiting Israel

There are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, four less than English. Maybe you should learn it before you plan your next trip to Israel. As the picture above shows, many signs in Israel are in the three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. So you will probably be able to survive and get-by without knowing Hebrew.

However, imagine how much enriching your trip would be if you could read a few signs, and at least know some basic conversational Hebrew. Even on the long airline flight from the USA to Israel, you could at least learn the Hebrew alphabet. Follow that up with a little phrase book, and you’ll be good to go.

As mentioned above, Hebrew has 22 letters, but there are 5 of them that have two shapes, so you might look at that as 27 letters. The five letters that have the “SOFIT” form are MEM, NUN, TZADI, FE, and CHAF. Then of course, there are those little vowel dots, called “NIQUD”. Believe it or not, Israelis, after about second or third grade, read and write Hebrew without the dots.

That’s possible because of the SHORESH system. Most Hebrew words have a three letter root, or “SHORESH”, made up of consonants. And the patterns of how you change that root is fairly standard, although of course, there are the “irregulars”. But when you look at a language like English, which gets a large percentage of its words from Latin, and another large percentage from German, the exceptions are enormous. And thus English speakers need vowels to help pronounce the words.

By the way, one thing that makes Hebrew unique is that along time ago, it adopted three of it’s 22 consonantal letters as possible values. When yous see a HEI on the end of a word, it often denotes the “AH” sound. YOD, similar to the “Y” in English, was adopted for the “EE” sound. And the letter VAV, for some odd reason, became the two vowel sounds of “OH” and “OO”. Incidentally, these are the three letters that make up the four letter tetragrammaton, YHVH, God’s name in Hebrew.

You might want to print out a Hebrew letter chart from this Wikipedia page: Hebrew Letter Chart.