Reading without Vowels - Ulpan Online

Reading without Vowels

When we begin to learn to read Hebrew, we are totally dependent on the vowels. These small signs that usually come under the letters guide us how to vocalize the consonants we pronounce. But everybody knows that newspapers, books (except for kids' books) and internet sites that are written in Hebrew lack the vowels' sign. So are the subtitles on TV, computer keyboards and products' labels. How do Hebrew readers do it? How do they read and understand without the vowels? How do they tell the difference when one spelling can stand for different meaning, such as מספר, that can be:
"A number",
"I / You / He tells",
"I / You / He cuts hair",
"He numbered",
"From a book",
"From a barber".
The first stage is to get to know as many vocabulary items as possible. The more words you know and recognize, the easier it gets to know how to read them without the vowels. The second stage is to understand the context. Do not read a sentence word by word. Try to browse the whole sentence. If the sentence is in a text, it is even easier. If you come across a word that can be read in different ways, most chances are that in a given context it would have only one appropriate meaning. It is true that from time to time we come across ambiguous sentences, in which more than one word meaning would be appropriate. Also, sometimes we read foreign names or words that are actually new in Hebrew (such as the words created by The Academy of The Hebrew Language). In such cases we would see partial vowels' signs, even in daily newspapers and in book. The third stage of reading without vowels is recognizing words' structures. As you may know, nouns and verbs have templates. For example, the templates of the verbs are called Binyanim. When we recognize the prefixes and suffixes of a certain Binyan, we know how to read the verb. The morphology of Hebrew words consists of great data on how to read them. In Hebrew, there is a strong connection between the morphology of words and their meaning. For example, browse the following Hebrew words and try to see what their morphology tells you about their meanings:

ימאי "a sailor", בנאי "a builder", עיתונאי, "a journalist", חשמלאי "an electrician".

שביר "breakable", כביס "washable", אמין "reliable", גמיש "flexible".

אדמת "rubella", צהבת "hepatitis", חזרת "mumps", כלבת "rabies".