Texting in Hebrew – The Ultimate Guide

4 min read
Abigail Zamir, Citizen Café Hebrew teacher
Abigail Zamir, Citizen Café Hebrew teacher

Have you ever wanted to text in Hebrew but didn’t know how? Maybe you have relatives in Israel, or co-workers that you would like to befriend, or your partner is Israeli and you want to simply say Hi to their mom… While speaking a few words is pretty manageable, texting requires actually knowing the alphabet – and that’s a whole new game. Here’s a breakdown of what is essential for you to know in order to start texting in Hebrew, including some useful tips! Good luck, and let us know if this helped ? 

The Hebrew Alphabet

After downloading your Hebrew keyboard first (congratulations!), let’s go through the different letters’ sounds and divide them into vowels and consonants:

Vowels:
OH = ֹו, OO = ּו, EE\Y = י

Tip: It’s important to notice that the vowels AH and EH are not marked in everyday texting. They appear in the “Nikud” system which you might see in children’s books, poetry, and Hebrew textbooks. For now, just remember that if you want to text a word with any of these two vowels, it will just be “included” in the consonant, with no apparent symbol.

Consonants:
A = א \ ע

B = ב
G = ג
D = ד
H = ה
V = ו
Z = ז
(a “throat” consonant that doesn’t exist in English) CH = ח \ כ
T = ט \ ת
Y = י
K = כ \ ק
L = ל
M = מ
N = נ
S = ס
P\F = פ
TS = צ
R = ר
SH = ש

The “sofit” letters – letters that are used at the end of a word

What will make you a texting PRO is knowing that there are 5 letters in Hebrew that look differently when they come at the end of a word! They sound exactly the same, but are called the ending סופיות (soh-fee-yoht) letters. Here are all of them including some examples:
מ = ם
For example, in the word water מים (mah-yeem). As you can see, the word starts with a “regular” מ but ends with the “soh-feet” version, ם.
נ = ן
As seen in the word wine יין (yah-een).
פ = ף
For example, in the word ending סוף (sohf).
צ = ץ
For instance, in the word summer קיץ (kah-eets).
כ = ך
Like in the verb walked (masculine singular) – הלך (hah-lahch).

Tip: If you look at your Hebrew keyboard now, you will notice that all of those letters are located next to each other on the right side of the keyboard!

Let’s start small talk!

Let’s get right down to business – learning how to actually text! Now that you know the different letters and vowels, here’s a simple “small talk” conversation in Hebrew. Take a look, and we’ll break it down to pronunciation and meaning:

writing hebrew

Hi \ Hey היי
So basically, same as in English, we like starting any conversation with a simple “Hi”, using two “י” letters. Something interesting about spoken, casual Hebrew, is that people sometimes add the ending “oosh” to words, which makes them softer and sweeter. That’s why in the conversation above, the “Hi” becomes “Hay-oosh” היוש. You wouldn’t text היוש to your boss or anyone you have a formal relationship with. More to a family member or close friend ?.

What’s up? מה קורה (mah koh-reh?)
There are many ways to ask “How are you?” in Hebrew. In this sentence for example, the literal English translation would be “what  is happening?”. Another way would be to ask ?מה נשמע (mah neesh-mah?) which means “What is heard? ”. A third is one is ?מה המצב (mah hah-mah-tsahv?) “What is the situation?”. In Israel, and in many other places, you might find yourself trapped inside a time loop of these questions with no apparent way out, and it will look something like this:

Texting in Hebrew

It is your responsibility to break the cycle – fight the basic small talk loop! (well, at least when you have some more vocabulary).

All good! הכל טוב (hah-kohl tohv)
A very common response to “How are you?” would be: “Everything is good”.

Another would be the all time favorite: sah-bah-bah סבבה!
This one cannot be reduced into a single-word translation… סבבה is so many things! It’s basically “okay”, similar to the word בסדר (beh-seh-dehr), but it can also mean “great”, “I’m down”, “I agree”, “fine”, “no worries”, “alright”, “good”, all with a relaxed vibe about it which is hard to explain. I could go on and on, but when someone tells you סבבה about something, you know that they are really סבבה about it, and they mean it… Sababa?!

What about you? מה איתך (mah ee-tahch \ eet-chah?)
On the fourth line of this small talk we see the phrase “what about you?” or “how about you?”, which consists of the word “what” that we’ve learned (מה) and then we have two versions of “with you”:
Masculine – איתך (eet-chah)
Feminine – איתך
(ee-tahch)

Tip: Notice that in Hebrew they are spelled exactly the same, since we have no indication of the vowels AH and EH in text messaging. Therefore, you will know the meaning of the word in some cases only by context. But it’s okay, you will quickly get used to it.

Great מעולה (meh-oo-leh)
An excellent reply, more enthusiastic than בסדר and סבבה. If someone writes to you that they are okay, you can lift their spirit with a מעולה, especially before you want to ask them for something ?

That’s all for now! Thanks for tuning in, we hope this information was new and useful.
You can start practicing your texting skills TODAY with our new Texting Course from your personal mobile device. Try it out for many more tips and hacks that will help you start texting in Hebrew!

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