When providing transliteration of prayers, I have tried to produce transliteration that should be as familiar as possible to those who are used to reading Hebrew transliteration. The computer code I created to convert Hebrew text to transliteration generates transliteration very close to what is found in the Conservative movement's prayer book, Siddur Sim Shalom.
The transliterations on this site are based on Sephardic pronunciation as heard in northeastern America. Sephardic pronunciation is used in Israel and in most American synagogues today. However, many Orthodox synagogues and many older Jews of any movement use Ashkenazic pronunciation. The guide below emphasizes Sephardic pronunciation, but notes variations you can expect to hear in Ashkenazic pronunciation.
Note: Most words in Hebrew are pronounced with the emphasis on the final syllable. The transliterations of prayers on this site do not provide any indication of where the emphasis lies.
Most consonants are pronounced as you would expect in American English. A few are worth noting:
|ch||A throat-clearing noise, as in the German Ach! or the Scottish loch or Alfred E. Newman's Yecch!!! This is very similar to the letter transliterated as kh, but the ch is a little bit softer. I transliterate them differently because they are different letters in Hebrew and I wanted to preserve that information. Note that the ch sound in the English chair does not exist in Hebrew. It exists in Yiddish, but there are no Yiddish prayers here.|
|g||Always a hard g as in game; never a soft g as in George|
|h||Silent at the end of a word or syllable, as in Sarah. Pronounced elsewhere in the word, as in Hello.|
|kh||A throat-clearing noise, as in the German Ach! or the Scottish loch or Alfred E. Newman's Yecch!!! This is very similar to the letter transliterated as ch, but the kh is a little bit harder. I transliterate them differently because they are different letters in Hebrew and I wanted to preserve that information.|
|r||Israelis and purists pronounce this as a gutteral sound in the back of the throat, similar to the way the letter "r" is pronounced in German. However, most Americans simply pronounce this the same way they pronounce "r" in "rail."|
|t||In Sephardic pronunciation, this is always pronounced like the "t" in "time." Be aware, however, that in Ashkenazic pronunciation, a letter transliterated as "t" here is sometimes (not always!) pronounced "s". For example, in the Kaddish prayer, the first word is transliterated as Yit'gadal, but in Ashkenazic pronunciation it would be Yis'gadal.|
Vowels are a bit trickier to explain, because they are not pronounced consistently in English! I will do my best:
|a||As in father. Note that there are four different Hebrew vowels that are presented as a in these transliterations. Two of those vowels would be pronounced as the aw in saw in Ashkenazic pronunciation. For example, the word transliterated here as Barukh is pronounced Bawrukh by some people.|
|ai||Sounds like the English word I, or the ai in ai-yi-yi! If you find this hard to remember, think of it as the a in father followed by the i in machine: ah-ee => I.|
|e||As in bed.|
|ei||As in weigh, or like the English word A. If you find this hard to remember, think of it as the e in bed followed by the i in machine: eh-ee => A.|
|i||As in machine, or like the ee in meet. Note that there is another vowel that sometimes makes a short sound similar to the i in sit, but that vowel is rendered here as an apostrophe; when i appears in this transliteration, it is always the i in machine.|
|o||As in home. In some variations of Ashkenazic pronunciation (particularly among the Chasidim), you may hear this letter pronounced like the oy in oy vey!|
|u||As in duke, or the oo in boot; sometimes pronounced as in put|
|'||this can represent a silent consonant (which puts a distinct break between two vowels), a silent vowel (a stop between two distinct consonants) or a schwa vowel (a short, underpronounced vowel, like the e in begin)|