Learning Biblical Hebrew: Masoretes were the first Geeks

Ok, to be honest, I am not a big fan of the dots and dashs (aka nikudim) on the Hebrew letters for most people just beginning to learn Hebrew.  Studies have shown that people who read Arabic have to use different parts of their brains due to interpreting all their little dots and dashes.  I would venture to say that more Arabic readers need glasses.  Hebrew didn’t have the dots and dashes until the Masoretes came along.  They had good intentions.  They did not live in the digital age.  They couldn’t record how the language sounded.  So they devised their own system that would represent the vowels.  Today, they would have been working for Microsoft, writing code.  They were technically accurate.  The work they did was tremendous and essential.  But it was not necessarily the greatest teaching methodology.

But when you are first starting out learning Hebrew, it can be a bit daunting to find that one letter has eight sounds, depending on how many dots and dashes it has.  Many teachers end up teaching Hebrew linguistics instead of the Hebrew language.

The dots and dashes show how the vowels work in Hebrew.  But let’s talk about words–words mean something to you.  When you learn a word, your brain grabs it as language, and you’ll pick up how the vowels work along the way.

Let me show you what I mean: you all know the Hebrew name Adam which means “man” in Hebrew.  First of all Hebrew doesn’t have any capital or small letters, so it’s ADAM.  A-DAM has two syllables.  The stress is on the first syllable, so Hebrew swallows up the unaccented vowel, and this is the result: ADM.

There are other features about the sylhebrew morphlables,  but one of the best ways to learn about how Hebrew works is to watch what I call the Hebrew Morph.  (Can someone write a song called “The Hebrew Morph?) The Hebrew Morph shows you the process of how an English word can be morphed into Hebrew.  To watch the Hebrew Morph in action, take the free course at Udemy called Learn Hebrew through the Bible.


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