Given that the Hebrew alphabet is primarily made up of consonants alone, vowel sounds are indicated with dots and lines below, above and next to the letters. Note that these markings will change (as will the pronunciation) as a word is given prefixes or a suffix, or is inflected to a certain parsing. In fact, the word that comes before can also affect a word’s exact pronunciation and vowel markings. Thus, the way you say a word depends on how it is used in a sentence, but the pronunciation differences alone do not change a word’s meaning.
While this might sound complicated, it is actually far easier than English. In English, the way a word is spelled does not tell you all you need to know about how it is pronounced. For example, take the word woman. The first half of this word is written the same but pronounced differently when used in the singular (“woman”) versus the plural (“women”). That is, the “wo-” in “woman” is pronounced wu, whereas the “wo-” in “women” pronounced wi. The pronunciation has changed though it is written the same!
On the other hand, in Hebrew the vowel markings are there to tell you exactly how to pronounce the word. Like English, pronunciation will change depending on how the word is used (singular versus plural, etc). But unlike English, the Hebrew vowel markings will make this change plain.
For this reason, it is important for us to learn the Hebrew vowels. We will do so below.