Lesson 4: Shhhh!
We have 3 letters and 2 vowels to cover in today’s lesson. The first two letters we are learning are ALEF and AYIN. If I asked you what sound these two letters make, I imagine you would guess “ah” like autumn or “ay” like airplane. Well, I’m throwing you a curveball because these two letters are silent letters. Please forget anything having to do with the English letter/vowel “a.” I’ll go more in depth about what that means exactly as we continue with the lesson, but hopefully the title of this lesson ” Shhh!” makes a little more sense now.
The letter ALEF is known as X Marks the Spot because it looks like an X when printed or written in block letters. It is also the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. ALEF is a silent letter. When you see the letter ALEF, you immediately look to the vowel below, next to, or above it and only verbalize the vowel’s sound.
אָ (EH) אֶ
The letter TSADI is shaped like a backwards “y” but with much sharper lines compared to AYIN’s more rounded ones. Just like SHIN has a sound that combines two English letters, TSADEE makes a “ts” or “tz” sound like the double z in pizza or the sizzling sound of water being dumped onto a burning candle.
I like to imagine that there are different pizza slices in the letter TSADI.
EE Vowel #1
EE Vowel #2
EE Vowel (sounds like eel):
EE Vowel #1
The EE vowel is simple. Just place one single dot centered underneath a Hebrew letter.
EE Vowel #2
Ok, so it’s not quite as straightforward as I led you to believe. There’s one more thing I’m throwing at you to shake things up.
Sometimes the letter YUD will be next to a letter that has the EE vowel underneath it.
If the YUD doesn’t have a vowel under or next to it, then it becomes part of the EE vowel or in our case, EE vowel #2. There is only one syllable.
Think of it this way:
- In English, how would you pronounce the following? EE
- How do you pronounce EEY in English?
You should have made the same sound for numbers 1 and 2. That is why adding a YUD without a vowel to the EE vowel keeps the same sound.
(REE) or (REEy) רִי
Now, how would you pronounce this word “EEyAH” in English?
Answer: Two syllables… EE-yAHw
So, if a YUD follows a letter with an EE vowel underneath it and that YUD has a vowel underneath it as well –for example, the AH vowel — you would then pronounce the y of the YUD and the vowel underneath the YUD.
Here are a few examples of how you could write EE-yAHw in Hebrew: