Hebrew, unlike English, is spelled exactly as it sounds (or conversely, it sounds exactly as it is spelled). Therefore, to represent an English word, you first must spell the word in simplified English phonetics and then convert this into Hebrew.
- Hebrew consonants with the same sounds:
Some Hebrew consonants sound alike in Modern Hebrew. In those cases where you are unsure which letter to use, follow these guidelines:
English sounds with no Hebrew equivalent:
- For a “v” sound, always use Vav () and never Vet (). Note that if the Vav would likely be mistaken for a vowel, use Yod Yod ().
- For a “t” sound, always use Tet () and never Tav ().
- For an “s” sound, always use Samech () and never Sin ().
- For a “k” sound, always use Qof () and never Kaf ().
There are some English sounds that have no Hebrew equivalent. In those cases where you are unsure which letter to use, follow these guidelines:
- For a “th” sound, use Tav ().
- For an “x” sound, use Qof Samech ().
- For a “w” sound, use Vav Vav ().
- For a “qu” sound, use Qof Vav ().
Some English letters have no exact equivalent in Hebrew. In this case, a small mark similar to an apostrophe (called a Geresh) tells the reader that there is something unusual. With certain letters in a foreign word, the Geresh indicates these foreign sounds:
- For a “j” sound, use Gimmel-Geresh ().
- For a “ch” (as in "Charlie") sound, use Tsade-Geresh ().
- For a “zh” (as in "garage") sound, use Zayin-Geresh ().
Foreign words need special hints to show the vowel sounds, especially without nikkudot (vowel marks). Short, unstressed vowels are not usually represented with vowel letters, and usually can be easily guessed. When a more significant stressed or long vowel is used, it should be indicated:
- For “o” and “u” sounds, use Vav ().
- For “ee,” “y,” and short “i” (as in "pit") sounds, use Yod ().
- Occasionally, an Aleph () can be inserted to represent an “ah” sound to add clarity.
- To represent long “i” as in "find" or diphthongs like “ai” as in "aisle" or ay as in "pray," use Yod-Yod ().
- For an ah sound at the end of the word, use Hey (). (This usually indicates that a noun is feminine. If it needs to be masculine, use Aleph () instead.)
- To begin a word with a vowel, use Alpeh () or Ayin ().
Here is a link to a site that will transliterate English words into Hebrew. Note, however, that this site will list various possibilities, so be sure to use simplified English phonetics when running the conversion.