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(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) Well, this is obviously out of date anyway, since Pluto has been demoted from planet status!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, right to left, pronounce the consonant sound first, followed by the vowel sound.
I-type vowels. I type vowels make a long “EE” sound. They are classified as long or short for purposes of grammar and spelling. Here is the verse from our song: Sing to the tune of “twinkle twinkle little star”
I type vowels are only two!
Chireq is short, Chireq yod is long.
Just remember the I sound is “ee”
as in machine, pizza or Wii.
This niqqudot song's almost done!
Let's all say “Hebrew is fun!”
Let's take each of these in turn:
Chireq: חירק. This one is a single “dot” under the letter. It is classified as a short vowel.
We can think of it this way: a dot looks like an egg. The word egg begins with “e”. So, the sound of one single dot under a letter is “ee”, as in : “EEE! I laid an egg!”
Chireq yod: חירק יוד This is the long varient of Chireq, above. It has an additional letter, yod. Remember that if a niqqud has an additional letter as part of it, it is long. So the "I-type vowel" is like the Spanish "i", making the long "EEE" sound. Got it?
That single dot can occur over a letter (cholem) beside a vav (shurek) or under the letter (chireq). To keep these straight, I say that a single dot on your head (take your index finger here, and point to your head) makes you say: “OH!” and a poke in the side (now take your index finger and poke your side) makes you say: “OO!”, and a poke on your toochus makes you say: “EE!”
Todah Raba, Thanks, for checking out my Hebrew Mnemonics on the Niqqud.
L'hitra'ot! See you!