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Lesson 1

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Transliteration rules
used in our Ulpan

כללי התעתיק
המקובלים באולפננו

As this is a learning site, we use transliteration of Hebrew words to Latin letters, to provide the reader a "feeling" of how the Hebrew words sound.


  • Consonants corresponding to English ones are written exactly like they sound.
  • Consonants that do not have a corresponding single letter in English alphabet are the following:


sh Shin a in father or traffic
tz Tzadi tz in chutzpah, or zz in pizza or mozzarella
ch Khet or Khaf ch in chutzpah, like ch in German
' Alef as a "stop" between the syllables in Uh-oh!

Almost not pronounced, "leave it blank".

` Ain [aa-yin] A guttural sound, specific to Semitic languages.

Not always pronounced even by Israelis. You may either pronounce it
same way as Alef, or also "leave it blank".

Special cases:
  • g always means g in get
  • English sound W does not exist in modern Israeli Hebrew, however, it is used in English and Arabic words. The appropriate letter for it is ו (Vav), usually pronounced as V and sometimes as W.
  • Semitic guttural sound ח (Chet) will always be transliterized as ch (chutzpe), even if common English transliteration is h. I.e., for learning purposes we'll rather write Chaifa than Haifa, as it's reflecting the pronunciation of most Israelis.

Since the transliteration is about to represent pronunciation rather than alternative writing system, we'll try to keep it closer to what the words sound like.

Therefore, letters which have different pronunciation under different circumstances, will be transliterated the way they sound. Again, we transliterate sounds, not letters.

  • Bet / Vet   -   b / v
  • Kaf / Khaf   -   k / kh
  • Pei / Fei   -   p / f

Transliteration for Tet and Tav, Kaf and Kuf, Sin, and Samech will be absolutely indistinguishable, as it is undistinguishable in modern pronunciation.

"Silent" Alef will be considered the filling of preceding vocalization and will not be reflected in transliteration: ראש - rosh, ראשון - rishon, מאזניים - moznayim, צאן - tzon



Note, that modern Hebrew pronunciation does not distinguish between shorter vowels (i as in sick) and longer ones (ee as in seek). The two words would sound the same.

Also, note the ultra-short vowels (the Chatafs). They sound shorter indeed, however, in modern pronunciation that is not a rule, and they may sound exactly like corresponding "normal" sounds.


diacritic sign 

a Kamatz, Patach a in father or traffic
e Segol, Tzeire e in get
i Khirik e in zebra
o Kholam, Kamatz katan o in both, 
u Shuruk, kubutz oo in book
ei, ey Tzeire as a in face or ey in hey!
[_]a Khataf-Patach shorter a
[_]o Khataf-Kamatz shorter o
[_]e Khataf-Segol, Schva Na shorter e

When we need to especially mention longer vowel (e.g. speaking of morphology), we'll mark them with a colon: a:, e:, i:, or o:.

Stress would be noted by either bold underlined character or with a capital letter: boker vs boker.


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