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Hateful transliteration rules

July 14, 2011

I note that a number of my B. Mitzvah students have trouble with the “ch” sound of the “chet” and “khaf,” even those who attend a Jewish school with plenty of Hebrew. They make it more of a aspirated “h,” rather than a nice strong “ch” sound. And yes, I know about the pronunciation difference between the chet and khaf, the latter getting the IPA symbol that looks like an X. I encourage a stronger, more forward “ch” sound for both letters when chanting.

Perhaps this predilection for the “h” comes from longstanding Hebrew Academy transliteration rule for “chet” of using an “h” and a diacritic mark underneath, a line. This could be confusing to some people and sends the wrong visual cue. I understand it for library and academic purposes where we want to get some semblance of the actual Hebrew spelling from the English letters. But for saying the prayers?

Yes, the students should stick with the Hebrew, but sometimes eyes stray. It creates a visual ambiguity.

My eyes prefer the “ch” transliteration rather than the “kh” version. But either is better than the “h” Hebrew Academy version.

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