UPDATE: If you want to learn how to speak Hebrew with the most proper pronunciation, I strongly advise you to try out Pimsleur Hebrew. You will be thrilled.
However, you have to know that it teaches you how to speak modern Ashkenazi Israeli Hebrew, which is the most convenient pronunciation for English native speakers.
Please note: There are many audio players on this page, I have taken the time to record so many things, please be sure that all the players are loaded and that you listen to each one of them. This page could take a minute to load. But once it has, it is really worth it!
Hebrew, just like all survivor languages, has gone through whole lot of changes throughout the ages. Not to mention pronunciation developments.
It is been argued that Hebrew started with so many sounds that it doesn’t have now, actually people believe that the closest accent to ancient Hebrew is the Sephardi accent. Having harsh sounds like these I am going to mention in this file. (Please do not laugh at me!)
In this audio I am going to pronounce the letters:
See how weird those sounds are? Actually this is the kind of pronunciation we learn at the university. You probably not only found them hard to pronounce, you even didn’t hear some of them! You know, our ears sometimes get accustomed not to hear sounds that are too challenging for our minds.
But I have good news for you. Modern Hebrew has taken over! Yes, even very religious people have now adopted (with or without choice) the Ashkenazi accent, completely ignoring all those sounds and altering them to easier sounds (pronounced here for you):
As you have probably noticed, the harsh CH sound is much easier than the first one, right? This is probably why it evolved in the first place.
Actually I am very thankful for Pimsleur Hebrew, it has taught me all the modern Hebrew that I speak today, without it, I would have certainly been struggling now with my little knowledge of modern Hebrew pronunciation and with the useless ancient Hebrew we study at university (sorry, not useless of course, but we study way too much of it, I love the Torah and I love ancient Hebrew, but I would have liked it a lot if they taught us as much modern Hebrew as they teach us ancient Hebrew), but anyway, Pimsleur has made it all up for me.
Niqquds are those little dots and dashes you see sometimes over or below some Hebrew letters. These are like vowels in English.
Since Hebrew doesn’t have many letters that indicated voiceless sounds, like a – e – i – o – u, there rose the need of alternatives, this is why niqquds were created (when exactly? I do not know yet, but I will ask one of my professors and tell you if you are interested).
When the niqquds came into existence, things got much easier. We can now write our foreign names and pronounce words more accurately.
However, do not get too used to niqquds, they are pretty much like a bicycle’s supporting wheels, if you depend on them too much, you won’t be able to ride on your own after that. Try to get a sense of the language, try to read words without niqquds from time to time and guess how they should be pronounced, depending on your memory, no matter whether you can remember their meanings or not, important is that you can ride your bike with no fears after that.
Here are a few words and phrases I pronounced for you. Try to read the words yourself first before you click on play. And see if you got the pronunciation right.
P.S. If you do not know yet how to read the alphabet, try to look at the Hebrew alphabet chart page, and stick around for more basic lessons. Best thing you would do is to subscribe to my website for free. If you don’t know how, drop me a comment and I will guide you through.
Let’s take it one step further and try to pronounce longer and more complicated phrases:
This is a part of a newspapers article that we studied in our first semester:
Ouch, it sounded more like “mesarbim” it is “mesarvim”, though. Anyway, you might have understood, the Israeli defense forced didn’t approve Shalom Achshav movement’s request to hold an Israeli-Palestinian demonstration at the Green Line, around Tolcarm town for security reasons.
If you have questions about how to pronounce words in Hebrew, do not hesitate to ask me. I will try to answer all your questions, and if I can’t I will tell you truthfully, and I might try to ask one of my professors at the university.