The third day of boot camp is one of consolidation and learning new rules. We went back over the vowels in a short test form (and I managed to forget the name of one, and mix up another… still more work to do) and then started learning the rules for syllables.
Yes, this is day three, and we still don’t know what sounds the syllables are supposed to make. By the end of this third day, we’re able to look at the first couple of verses of Genesis, and convert the odd looking squiggles into sounds (though not, yet, meaning).
Syllables in Hebrew are either open (ending with a vowel) or closed (ending with a consonant). In general, written Hebrew always alternates between vowel and consonant. Where it gets confusing (at least to an English speaker) is that there are silent consonants and silent vowels. So if a word starts with a vowel, like “Abraham” then the first letter of the word will be a silent consonant, and then the opening vowel “a”.
Beyond that, there are special cases of vowels, and there are some consonants that normally make a sound, but when combined with certain vowels they are silent. Learning these rules takes another hour or so, and then it’s on to practicing marking out the syllables in a word. The very effort of doing this exercise helps to consolidate the rules, and of course, with the carefully chosen examples, we get to see the various rules in action, even the more obscure ones.
So the next challenge is to learn the 20-odd vocab words, and then it will be time to start learning what the rules of the language are!