Two sets of recordings of the Hebrew Bible, plain-spoken rather than chanted, are available online. One set, the voice of which is Avraham Shmuelof, is available thanks to Gary Martin of the Academy of Ancient Languages here. Another set, the voices of which are various and unidentified, is available through Librivox. Here is the page for the book of Genesis.
A fun test. Here is Librivox Genesis 1. How many outright errors in pronunciation can you catch? I caught nine. Below the jump, a discussion of the errors and other drawbacks of the Librivox recordings.
Outright errors in Librivox Genesis 1 fall into two categories:
(1) אֶת and אֵת are not distinguished. אֵת is pronounced as if it were אֶת in Gen 1:1 (2x), 16 (1x), and 21 (2x).
(2) Nesiga, retraction of accent, is not observed in Gen 1:5, 12, 22, and 28.
Shmuelof’s version of Gen 1 is more useful for the following reasons:
(1) He reads at a more even and somewhat slower pace;
(2) He consistently doubles consonants, to the point of overdoing it, but that’s better than leaving them out. For example, he pronounces hagge-do-lim in Gen 1:21; the Librivox tape, hag-do-lim.
(3) He ayinizes words which have an ayin at the onset of a syllable. Note that the ayin affects the pronunciation of the entire word – as it should.
(4) He does not make the types of error the Librivox tape does.
I don’t want to suggest that the Shmuelof
tapes are perfect. He is consistent with vocal shvas if and only if they are
followed by an aspirated be
gadkefa t letter. The Librivox
recording are also inconsistent in this sense, sometimes pronouncing vocal
shvas where Shmuelof doesn’t, and sometimes the reverse.
I would also enjoy hearing a tape of selections of Tiberian Biblical Hebrew with strict adherence to vowel quality and consonant quality based on what modern study of the masoretic treatises suggests. But for most purposes, a pronunciation of the biblical text thoroughly if not completely assimilated to Israeli Hebrew is the most useful way to go from a pedagogical point of view. Shmuelof’s tapes are, at least for the time being, the best available.