We use a special system called transliteration to phonetically represent Hebrew words using English letters.
For a better understanding of how our transliteration works, please review our Transliteration Appendix:
My goodness... what a word! What on earth is Hebrew transliteration? Transliteration refers to writing a word from one alphabet system (such as the Hebrew alphabet) in the letters of another alphabet system (such as the Roman alphabet used in English). This way, one can read the words without having to learn a whole new alphabet. So, Hebrew transliteration is a way of expressing Hebrew for English speakers: Hebrew words written in the English alphabet for English speakers and readers who don’t read Hebrew.
Many times, transliteration is prone to inconsistency, and Hebrew transliteration is no exception. Just look for words in Hebrew transliteration online, and you’ll see many ways of spelling the same Hebrew word. Perhaps the best-known example to English speakers is the name of that Jewish holiday that comes in December: Is it Hanukkah? Or Chanukah? Or Hannukah? All of them? Well, actually it’s none of them! The only “real” way to spell the name of that holiday is חנוכה (or maybe חנכה)... but once you try to write it in Hebrew transliteration, all bets are off.
But even with its many inconsistencies, Hebrew to English transliteration does have benefits for those who do not know how to read Hebrew (yet!) For those who wish to learn the Jewish prayers, Hebrew transliteration is often invaluable. And for those who are more interested in learning to speak Hebrew than learning to read Hebrew, Hebrew transliteration is just the tool they need. Finally, Hebrew transliteration is one way of writing Hebrew with vowels (because traditional Hebrew is generally written without them).
On the other hand, many people prefer learning to read Hebrew (either on its own or while learning to speak Hebrew). These people prefer to study Hebrew without the use of Hebrew transliteration. And, of course, rabbis, cantors, and Hebrew teachers who are training students for their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs never encourage the use of Hebrew transliteration!
The good news is that Learn Hebrew Pod has addressed all of these issues related to Hebrew transliteration. We have solved the problem of inconsistency by adopting and consistently applying one Hebrew transliteration method, which is fully described and taught in our Transliteration Appendix. With Learn Hebrew Pod, you’ll never have to worry about puzzling out a word written in Hebrew transliteration.
And as for “to transliterate or to not transliterate... that is the question” (sorry Shakespeare!), Learn Hebrew Pod has adopted a policy of the best of both worlds. For those wishing to study with Hebrew to English transliteration, you’ll find that the transliteration is there to help. And for those wishing to learn without Hebrew transliteration, you’ll see all our dialogues and monologues written in Hebrew letters. As Learn Hebrew Pod is an interactive, online Hebrew course, many games and activities let you turn Hebrew transliteration on and off. (Check out our Jewish Prayers course for a wonderful example of how easy and flexible we make it to learn either with or without Hebrew transliteration.)
In short, whether or not you are a proponent of Hebrew transliteration, we’ve got you covered at Learn Hebrew Pod!