Hebrew alphabet

(16 Posts)
horsemadmom Fri 04-Jan-13 15:09:21

It's been fun helping!
Let me know how your DD gets along with it.

ZZZenAgain Fri 04-Jan-13 14:19:46

oh I see, I totally misunderstood the meaning of numerical value in the chart then. I didn't realise the letters were used in that way at all.

Dc must learn to read Hebrew at a very early age then. I didn't realise 3-4 year olds would be conversant in it. Impressed.

Thanks very much for your help.

horsemadmom Fri 04-Jan-13 14:11:57

They actually use the same numbers as we do. You'll never get a till receipt with Hebrew letters. I think you're over-thinking the numbers. Echad (aleph=1) etc. is a counting system similar to Roman numerals (x=10). Gamatria is the application of numerical values to words and is largely a supersticious way of finding luck in words. So, let's say you have a baby. Some old person who dables in Gamatria will tell you that the value of your child's name is the same as the word 'blessed (baruch)' or 'a wise person (chacham)'. It's about as valid as astrology.
I don't know if there is a direct link between the Cyrilic, Greek and Hebrew but it stands to reason.
Interesting bit of trivia related to the expectation that children should be able to read Hebrew. If the actual words in the Torah become damaged, it is no longer kosher and must be repaired or buried as you would bury a person. If during the service it is discovered that a letter is scratched, a 3 or 4 year old child will be asked to look at the word. If they can't tell what word it is, the Torah has to be put away for repair and the reading must continue with a new Torah.

ZZZenAgain Fri 04-Jan-13 13:35:40
ZZZenAgain Fri 04-Jan-13 12:17:34

thank you that is so interesting. Enthusiam, well if she makes up her mind to want to know something, she is full on enthusiastic. If she is told she has to learn something, there is less overt enthusiasm IME. Sometimes I think schooling crushes their natural desire to learn but what can you do about that really? I can certainly imagine the galvanising effect of attractive young people of the opposite sex, very clever idea to pack them off on an Israel tour. I can see why that is a widespread thing.

I now know the Aleph Bet song off by heart pretty much after dd playing it on youtube non-stop yesterday. It is going through my head all the time. I will learn to write the letters alongside dd I've decided. I'm quite taken by this alphabet now. Although I actually really prefer the printed block letters to the handwritten block version. They look more like calligraphy to me, done in ink with a paintbrush perhaps.

Sorry to keep asking so many questions. I just have one more regarding the numerical value of the letters. Is this more of an esoteric concept, or is it an integral part of learning Hebrew to know this and also to consider it when you read/write? I bought dd an overview of the alphabet (reference page) and it lists the numerical value. It seems from Aleph to Yod, the value increases by 1 per letter. Then in units of 10 from Yod to Kof and then in hundreds to Tav. I am wondering why Aleph has a value of 1 and Tav 400. Is the higher number or the lower number the better value. For example, is Aleph being the first letter stronger or more powerful than Tav? Is that how it works?

I have also been wondering if the letter Shin is related to the Cyrillic letter for sh which also looks a bit like a W rounded on the bottom rather than pointed. Perhaps it derived from the Shin. In the oldest forms of Cyrillic it is simply a straight horizontal line with 3 upright pillars above but they are not slanted, so quite similar to the Shin. Having looked it up, I see the origin is unknown but from the earliest Slavic alphabet which of course is largely Greek and the Cyrillic sh could be Hebrew in origin or could have come to the Slavic alphabet via Armenian.

horsemadmom Thu 03-Jan-13 16:58:48

Hi
Hebrew is treated as a very much living language. Unlike Latin and the Reformation fight to translate scripture into the vernacular to be understood by the masses, it is expected and hoped that Jewish children should be able to read and understand Hebrew. The old Ashkenazi pronunciation is a by-product of Yiddish which is a mix of Hebrew, Middle German and vocabulary from Polish, Russian and anywhere else Jews lived. It is writen in Hebrew script. Ladino is similar but the mix is Hebrew and the Iberian languages. US/UK kids now learn the modern Israeli/Saphardic pronunciation and this is what is used in all but the most observant synagogues (the people who dress like it's 18th century Poland). It is learned as a language like any other. The only difference between Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew is the same syntax and vocabulary changes that you'd find in the developement of all languages. I'm rather jealous of you for having an enthusiastic learner. My kids had to be dragged kicking and screaming every week to learn. From the experience of most of my friends, this changes when you send them on Israel tour (a UK Jewish teen rite of passage) and they meet some tanned, fit Israeli and decide that it might be a good idea to be able to follow conversations at parties.

ZZZenAgain Thu 03-Jan-13 15:07:43

Fascinating language actually. Am finding it quite interesting myself. I thought the difference might lie in the vowel sounds predominantly but there is a big difference between 'at' and 'os'. Quite a shift. I have been reading a bit about Hebrew now. Is it usual for dc in Hebrew School in the UK/USA nowadays to learn classical Hebrew with Sephardic pronunciation so that it is similar to the pronunciation of modern Hebrew? I presume the main goal is to learn the language in order to read liturgical texts so perhaps another pronunciation is deemed more authentic or more appropriate. Is there an attempt made generally in spiritual settings to set classical Hebrew apart from modern Hebrew, so that it is not so much the language of everyday life?

If you learn to pronounce the letters/sounds in one style (say Ashkenazi), is another pronunciation still easily understandable?

I hadn't actually realised how complex classical Hebrew is with the varying dialects. It must be quite a challenge to read all the biblical and Mishnaic texts if the language developed so much over the time period when the texts were written. Would it be a dedicated scholar who reaches that fluency or is it the goal for most young learners to acquire levels of fluency that enable them to do that?

horsemadmom Thu 03-Jan-13 00:20:44

Modern Hebrew (Ivrit) uses Sephardi pronunciation rather than old Ashkenazi. So 'Shabbat' instead of 'Shabbos'. The 'r' is at the back of the throat a bit harsher than French. The song 'Haleluyah' that won Eurovision in the 70's is a good one. Easily enunciated words.
My DD and her class worked through the books with only a bit of supervision. A new girl joined on a day that I was helping and I managed to get her through half of book 1 in an hour. It's a very phonetic language, unlike English. The only traps are things like Nun and Mem Sofit (Final letter), Shin and Sin (dot on the first branch or last), Pay and Fay (dot, no dot), Eyin (silent, place holder letter). Bet and Vet are nearly interchangeable. Try Shalom Sesame videos. It's Israeli Sesame Street.

ZZZenAgain Wed 02-Jan-13 23:15:54

having had a look at some books, I wanted to ask about the pronunciation. Is there a standard pronunciation, perhaps Israeli pronunciation which is usually taught or does it differ according to whether you learn modern or ancient Hebrew? I have seen some books specify sephardic pronunciation. Would this be widely understood, is it the pronunciation used in Israeli tv for instance?

ZZZenAgain Wed 02-Jan-13 19:44:00

I found 'Mitkadem Hebrew for Youth'. I think this is the series of books you mentioned. Levels 1 and 2 would probably be what she needs . I see they are workbooks designed for self-directed learning which is what she wants really. She says they sound great, so thanks for that.

ZZZenAgain Wed 02-Jan-13 19:23:06

I'll look them up, thanks very much. She has written out a whole page of lyrics in Hebrew today so she seems to be keen. She doesn't understand a word of it though. Interesting the time and effort they will put into what they want to do but the state of her bedroom is appalling, no time or effect gets put into tidying it up.

horsemadmom Wed 02-Jan-13 14:30:32

The vowel dots and dashes are called nikudot. The reason that you don't see them in script is that the words are mostly obvious in the context of the sentence. Kids do learn to read with the vowels. If you have a look at Ramah books, my kids had them at Hebrew school. They are in block print. Do remember that it goes right to left.

ZZZenAgain Wed 02-Jan-13 13:55:36

that's interesting. Thanks. I think she is more interested in the modern language. She likes to look up songs in other languages with the lyrics and sing along to them, watch a series she knows in another language and decipher the names of actors etc. Just for fun really, she is not seriously interested in mastering all the vocab/grammar.

Well I didn't know that about the dots and dashes. I wonder why they don't bother using them in modern Hebrew. Is it because ancient Hebrew uses a lot of obsolete words people just wouldn't know otherwise? I will pass that on to dd

Absy Wed 02-Jan-13 13:50:01

"I am wondering though if she would get anywhere with the Hebrew alphabet without learning the language because the consonants are written but not vowels so even if she learned to read the consonants, she still wouldn't know how to pronounce anything, would she?"

Ancient/biblical yes, modern, not very far. Ancient has the dots and dashes which indicate what the vowel sounds are, so she could do that, but not modern (which doesn't have any of those, basically just consonants) though children's books do have the dots (I can't remember their proper name)

ZZZenAgain Wed 02-Jan-13 13:41:39

sorry, wanted to add: she has a thing about learning alphabets, she is not aiming to learn the language. She likes to be able to decode words in languages even if she doesn't speak them

I am wondering though if she would get anywhere with the Hebrew alphabet without learning the language because the consonants are written but not vowels so even if she learned to read the consonants, she still wouldn't know how to pronounce anything, would she? For example if the letters are written T M T for example, it could be tomat, tamot, temet etc AFAIK

ZZZenAgain Wed 02-Jan-13 13:38:44

asking for dd who is a bit of a language freak. She would like to learn to write the Hebrew alphabet and I wondered if anyone can recommend a workbook.

Have had a look but only found books for colouring in the letters or learning the language. I found one book called Aleph Through the Looking Glass from Yale University Press which I liked the sound of but it teaches the cursive script. She just wants to learn to write the print letters.

Found a website called Hebrew4christians which teaches the individual letters but has a lot on spirituality behind the letters and I think it is too much for dd really.

Any recommendations?

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