For learners of Hebrew (and Arabic) the lack of written vowels in non-liturgical contexts adds one more challenge to learning the language.
Typically, when learning a language, I like to use Google Translate for this purpose. Unfortunately — and quite remarkably — Hebrew remains one of the language that it cannot synthesize in.
If you need to learn words with nekudot (vowels) then there are a few workarounds. If you just need the vowelization of a single word, then regular English-Hebrew dictionaries will provide those (just not Google Translate).
The most common online option among learners (which has both smartphone apps and a web UI) is Morfix.
Morfix supports English TTS, to help English learners, but doesn’t have a Hebrew text to speech engine.
If Hebrew TTS is what you need, then these are some viable options. Here is what I have found so far.
Desktop-accessible / web UIs
Being a desktop-centric sort of guy I prefer solutions that are accessible from a browser / that have web user interfaces.
Microsoft Translator supports TTS on its Android app but strangely whenever I clicked on the sound button nothing happened.
I was using Chrome from a Linux computer (so the problem could be me-specific), but this bug has been reportedly previously — so it is probably safe to say that the behavior is cross-platform.
Digging through Reddit threads, I instead found a recommendation for Reverso Translation. I hadn’t heard of or used the tool before but it (surprisingly) handled Hebrew TTS admirably.
After crowdsourcing information on Reddit (thank you /u/shaulreznik!), I was directed to another TTS engine, AlmaReader. This provided a synthesized Hebrew voice which sounded much more natural than Reverso’s. However, this is just a Hebrew reader — it doesn’t have a translation functionality from English. So to translate and then hear a phrase I would need to firstly run the text through Google Translate and then copy in the snippet.
To just hear the vowelization of a single word, Milog, a Hebrew dictionary, works fine:
Like on the web, Google Translate’s app does not support Hebrew TTS.
However there are some that do.
Using a text to speech translation app makes the process of learning Hebrew a lot easier for learners. As an auditory learner, I prefer learning words in the context of phrases and sentences rather than as isolated entries in a dictionary — although it’s always worth cross-checking with a dictionary to make sure that the word any translation app provides is right and fits the context.
Other Resources For Learning Hebrew
Finally, a couple more resources that I have been using recently to improve my Hebrew.
Modern Hebrew is chock full of acronym contractions that are actually read out as words. To make matters worse, the rules for vocalizing these are not consistent. The UN, for instance is אומות מאוחדות which is actually read out as ‘oom’; however the contraction for the USA (אה”ב) is not read out as ‘ahab’. The preponderance of these can be another source of confusion for learners.
The Kitzur lookup dictionary expands these kitzurim to help you understand what they mean or do decrypt a mysterious acronym.
If you need to conjugate verbs, then there is a website for that too. Check out hebrew-verbs.co.il. The pro version costs $49.95 for lifetime access and increases the library of verbs available for conjugation from 350 to more than 1,000 and provides learning resources including quizzes and flip cards.
Colloquialism and Sayings
Most languages have proverbs or wise sayings which can be liberally injected into conversation to make you sound far older than your age. Irish has a wonderful collection of these known, collectively, as seanfhocail. In Hebrew, the word is פתגמים. Many of these, unsurprisingly, are drawn from Biblical verses.
English to Hebrew translation with Hebrew TTS:
English to Hebrew dictionary
Proverbs (Hebrew — Hebrew)
Article ID: 146