I am currently learning modern Hebrew with simple material (Teach Yourself Hebrew). I would like to use a different transcription than the one offered in this book or in Omniglot to build up my vocabulary lists.

In the above sources, different transcriptions are provided for the alternative pronunciations of the letters bet (b/v), kaf (k/kh), pe (p/f) and shin (s/sh).

However I would like to use a transcription that reflects the use of a single letter+diacritic to denote the change from fricative to plosive and from alveolar to post-alveolar for shin.

For instance I am currently using:

  • bet: v = [v] and ṿ [b]
  • kaf: k = [x] and ḳ [k]
  • shin: s = [s] and ṣ [ʃ]

I am not really satisfied however with what I have (the dot below usually denotes a retroflex and there I cannot add a dot below f with the international keyboard), and I would like to find a way to use the same base letter for both alternative phonetics. Could you suggest any transcription that would reflect the alternative pronunciations in a linguistically appropriate way? (It should also be easy enough to type with an international keyboard).

  • 3
    I took a Hebrew class once. Out teacher suggested to not use transcriptions at all, because we'd have to learn Hebrew letters anyway, and transcribing rather than reading Hebrew would deprive us of practise. To clarify pronunciation, there are alyways matres lectionis. Maybe the answer to your question is to do without transcriptions?
    – Aspinea
    Jul 20, 2012 at 12:02
  • I use the Hebrew script without diacritics to render vowels and moreover the keyboard I use does not provide the "dotted" bet etc. To render the pronunciation I think that the transcription is best and I want this transcription to respect the abugida's use of a single letter for two related sounds. Thanks. Jul 20, 2012 at 12:27
  • That explains why you were using odd transcriptions in the other question. Please don't. Either use a phonetic transcription of Ivrit, or a historical transcription: using your own idiosyncratic transcription in questions on a site such as this is confusing and impolite.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 23, 2012 at 15:31
  • @ColinFine: I was trained with Sanskrit and there are many official transcription for that language. I assumed there are many transcriptions for Hebrew. If you can refer me to a list of existing transcriptions I'll be grateful. I don't see however how finding or forging an appropriate tool for learning may appear impolite to you. In any case I can assert I don't mean to be rude. Jul 24, 2012 at 13:39
  • Most transliteration of Modern Hebrew that I've seen is phonetic, so they don't attempt to distinguish ט from ת from תּ, or ס from שׂ, or כ from ח. West European Hebraicists seem to prefer a systematic transliteration more like the one you have adopted, writing vet as 'bh' or ḅ for example. What I meant about impolite is that you are requiring people to penetrate your personal notation in order to be able to make sense of your question.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 24, 2012 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


A commenter to your post suggested that you not use transcriptions, and I would like to expand upon that.

As Hebrew words are very dependant upon the root (שורש) of the word, you will need to know the root of a word to know its meaning. Also, new words are easy to understand if you are familiar with the root. Hebrew words fall into a finite number of buildings (בניינים) that let you pick out the roots very easily. You will loose that advantage if you transcribe. Also you might loose the difference between differing letters with similar sound, such as וו and ב, for instance the words שבה and שווה would be pronounced the same but have different meanings.

For what reason do you want to use transcriptions? I may be able to help devise a plan based on your goal.

  • Thanks. I learn words with the script though not using diacritics. Hence I learn חושב as the 1st person singular present of חשב . As a reminder of the pronunciation "xośev" I want to add a transcription to my lexicon. Jul 20, 2012 at 16:16
  • Benjamin, you're doing it wrong! :) Not using diacritics does not mean throwing out all the "vowels", such as ו or י. The 1st person present of "to think" is חובש and if you need to remember the pronunciation then it is חוֹשֵב. But you should be learning the infinitive לחשוב or with pronunciation לָחשוֹב and by knowing the building (בניין) Pa'al (פעל) you can then infer חושב for the first person singular. In other words, learn: 1) the buildings, 2) the infinitive for each word, and 3) the exceptions. Note that לחשוב has a Pa'al exception because of the leading ח.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 21, 2012 at 10:10
  • OK. This confuses me. First of, I have no idea what a בניין is. Although if that allows me to infer the non-written vowels (i.e. E in xośEv), then I want to know. Please provide some reference? (Or I perhaps should post another question in this regard). Second, the problem is not solved (I believe) since, when I am filling up my flash-card software, I don't want depend on a system of induction to find out whether my answer is correct or wrong. I will still need a transliteration to check my answer. Jul 21, 2012 at 10:38
  • Are you using Anki? That is my preferred flashcard software. There are a few Hebrew בניינים, I just googled for "hebrew binyanim" and found tons of info. I suggest learning Pa'al first, it is the most common. Know that the name of the buildings are determined by the male singular second person past tense of the letters פ ע ל in each building. So you know that the building Pa'al would have a last tense of those letters פָעָל and a last tense of ח ש ב as חְָשָב which you already know.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 21, 2012 at 10:43
  • Yes I am using Anki and working on making another software too. Will look up info about binyanim. Jul 21, 2012 at 10:57

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