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(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) Well, this is obviously out of date anyway, since Pluto has been demoted from planet status!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.
U type vowels. What are called U type vowels have one pronunciation: Like a long "U" in the English word: "blue". In addition, 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”
Finally, our U-type sound.
And it's "OO", as in "Blue"
Qibbuts is short & Shureq is long
We're not quite finished with our song!
Oh! don't forget our short sheva!
It can be "eh" or NO SOUND AT ALL!
Qibbuts: קבוץץ is three small dots under the letter. They align on a diagonal like little stairs. These stairs remind me of the kibbutz in Israel. These are the collective farms in the land. There are only 3 steps up, so it is a short qibbuts! In other words, this is the short vowel: used in closed syllables.
Shureq: שורק is actually a vav with a dot to the left center, right up beside the vav. Remember, ANY vowel including an additional letter (in this case, the vav) is considered LONG. You could also think of "shrek" as a BIG green ogre! That could come in handy later, with spelling mnemonics that we do!