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Hebrew is a language spoken and written by the Jews from the earliest times. It is probably the oldest surviving written language.

A few very basic facts:

  • Unlike English it is written right-to-left. So that the first word of the sentence is in the on the right hand margin of the page, not the left hand margin.
  • All of the letters are consonants. There are 22 of them. Vowels are written as a series of dots, dashes, and other marks underneath, or (less commonly) above the letters. One of the consonants (v equivalent) changes its type to a vowel if a dot is written in (o) or above (oo) it. In older Hebrew texts vowels may be unclear or ommitted completely leading to occasional debatable points in translations, especially when performed by those with less bilingual skill or less access to other texts from an era for comparison (such as would be the case more often in medieval times).
  • Books in Hebrew are reversed, so that what English speakers would call the back of the book is the front of the book in Hebrew. Or, to look at it another way, a Hebrew book closed on the table in front of you has the opening on the left, rather than right, side.
  • The earliest editions of the old testament of the Bible were written in Hebrew.