Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Words You Might Never Pronounce Correctly

There are some Hebrew and Yiddish words you just might never master like a FFB (frum from birth). That's ok. If you get close enough, people will understand what you mean. But as a practical matter, I avoid saying the words I have difficulty with simply so I don't look like a n00b.

"Al Hamichiyah"
"R'tzayh v'hachalitzaynu" (from the Shabbat paragraph from bentching)

This is what I could come up with over one Shabbat. I don't have problems with all of these, but I have certainly heard some problems with them! The combination of hey and chet within a syllable of each other seems to be my personal downfall.

Any others you would like to add to the list?


  1. I struggle with many of these words as well. . . My husband likes to joke that I sound like the "Jews for Jesus" who use hebrew in their tv sermons. :-)

    It's all a process and at some point, hopefully, the sounds will come naturally. Until then I just practice them at home and use the english equivalent in shul.

  2. The 'ch' sound comes naturally to me as I am Scottish (it's the same sound as the 'ch' in Loch) so I feel very lucky about that. It took me a very long time to get 'tznius' right though. At first I just sounded as if I was trying to sneeze.

  3. What about mashgiach/moshiach?

    It took me forever to figure out what people where saying at the new year: gmar chasima tova. I usually just responded, same to you! lol.

  4. I have trouble with "tzitzit"; it just sounds dumb when I say it.

    Wait a second, how do you pronounce "frum"? This is keeping me up at night.

    1. Originally posted: August 4, 2011 at 6:28 PM

      Anonymous: It's hard to explain. The u vowel sound doesn't really exist in English. It's closest to "umm," but that's not exactly right. I think most people don't hear the difference. I'm a weirdo, so I do.

    2. Originally posted: August 5, 2011 at 2:52 AM

      I will never forget getting "lessons" from a 5 year old about how to pronounce tzitzit. He...uhhh hadn't learned much subtlety yet. I got schooled. And failed. He declared me incapable.

      I am proud to say that I think I can do it now. Or close enough that no one makes fun of me anymore.

  5. I don't see what's hard about frum, tzittzit, chutzpah, tzedakeh, but teshuva took me a while to get the hang of! Moshiach is not hard, but mashgiach doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

    Tzipporah is my hebrew name - the tricky thing is that depending where the jew if from, it sounds different. Some says "Tzee-poe-rah" some says "Tzi-pour-ah"... and both are commonly said without issue. Everyone assumes I was FFB unless I say otherwise b/c I avoid the words I can't pronounce well. :)

  6. For me, it is "yeshiva." I always always always screw up the syllabic stress. I gave up a long time ago and just say "seminary" now.

    Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.

  7. Just throw in some random "mamash" (really) or say things like "Will you come by me for Shabbos?" Those are both easy and make you fit in. ;)

  8. How do you pronounce tzitzis, anyways?

    1. Originally posted: August 30, 2011 at 12:33 AM

      I couldn't explain it to you through text any better than it's written. Ask friends to say it for you or look for videos about tzitzit (or tzitzis) on YouTube because they'll inevitably say it!

  9. I converted to sephardic so I don't have to learn any yiddish phrases. I can speak hebrew fluently now but I can't pronounce the guttural letters. At first, I was embarrassed, but now I embrace it. I'm proud to be an American and have an American accent. Israelis are just shocked that I can understand hebrew at all. I also think that Jews of all stripes need to stop obsessing and judging others over the little "cultural" things (like lingo) that don't really make any difference to the Almighty anyway. That would help to end the petty factionalism that plagues our people.