I like to use word association, mind pictures, “sounds like”, music and silly sentences to remember Hebrew vocabulary, letters, vowels and spelling. These tips and tricks, known also as mnemonic devices, have been proven to assist people of all ages to lock details into their long term memory for total recall and use. Perhaps you remember some mnemonic devices from grade school, such as:
Roy G. Biv, for the occurrence of colors in a rainbow
(red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), as an aside: what color IS indigo???or
Parachute Expert, My Dear Aunt Sally for mathematical order of operations (parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction) , or
Mary's Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights Panting (Or praying, or Period!)for the order of the planets:
(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) Well, this is obviously out of date anyway, since Pluto has been demoted from planet status!
But I digress: Let's take a look at the Hebrew vowel points, or Niqqud.
Niqqud: נקוד or the plural would be Niqqudot: נקודות means “pointing, or dotting” This refers to the Masoretic codification of markings around 600 or 700 CE to preserve the authentic pronunciation of Hebrew in the diaspora. In order to maintain the Holiness of the Hebrew letters themselves, these dots, or Niqqud, are placed under, over or beside the letters. Hebrew letters themselves only represent consonants, the vowel sounds have to be supplied by the reader/speaker. When reading Hebrew, left to right, pronounce the consonant sound first, followed by the vowel sound.
A-type vowels. A type vowels make a long “AH” sound. They are classified as long, short, or reduced for purposes of grammar and spelling. Here is the verse from our song: Sing to the tune of “twinkle twinkle little star”
A type vowels: Qamets, n' Patach,
Qamets Hey and Chateph Patach.
Ones with Qamets, they are long
Ones with Patach, they are short.
And all A type vowels say “ah”
Just like “ah” in A QUA!
Let's take each of these in turn:
Qamets: קמץ. This vowel it the one that looks like a small capital English “T” under the letter. Let's say your friend makes you some tea (the mark looks like “T”), and it tastes horrible, but your friend says: “Don't make any COMMENTS (Qamets) about my tea!”
COMMENTS sounds like Qamets, so remember not to make COMMENTS about the tea (“T”)! You can remember that it is a long vowel, because it takes a L-O-N-G time to drink that terrible tea!!
Qamets Hey: קמץ הא . This vowel is really just a variation of the qamets, but it is always used at the END of a word, often marking that a noun or verb is feminine in form. You can use a variation of the mnemonic for Qamets, as in: “HEY! Don't make any COMMENTS about my tea!!” Remember that ANY vowel utilizing an additional letter will be long. The additional letter here is ה.
Both Qamets vowels are LONG. (Remember, it takes a LONG time to drink tasteless tea in order to indulge your friend!)
The second A type vowel that we are going to examine today is called
Patach: פתח. This vowel is a single, flat horizontal line under the letter. It looks flat like a pancake. PANCAKE sounds like Patach . Imagine that it is a “short stack” of pancakes, and you will remember that Patach is a short vowel.
Chateph Patach: חטף פתח . This vowel is really just a variation of the patach, but it is exclusively used with the gutteral letters, and is considered “reduced” as a result. The word, chateph, means “hurried” or “snatched”.
Todah Raba, Thanks, for checking out my Hebrew Mnemonics on the Niqqud.