A review of a topic we've presented in the past. Native
English speakers are more likely to need this review - so please read on.
SH'MA. Simple no? The SHIN has a SH'VA NA under it. That is a semi-vowel. A short vowel. As opposed to a SH'VA NACH which does not contribute sound to the letter it is under.
It is very common in English to have two consonants merge sounds without a vowel between them. The S and M of SMART melt together in English. Not so in Hebrew when the first letter has a SH'VA NA. This is why we transliterate SH'MA with the apostrophe, not SHMA. SH'MOT, not SHMOT. (Of course, some- times a word will appear without the apostrophe, but if the SH'VA is NA (which it almost always is in these kinds of situations), it needs to be heard.
Blending the SHIN and MEM of SH'MA does not change the meaning of the word, but it is a sloppy pronunciation. And with SH'MA, we are dealing with the fulfillment of a MITZVA D'ORAITA.
[Personal: I know that YL will take me to task for not talking AYIN vs. ALEF. This is mentioned in halachic sources as a warning for SH'MA in particular, not to interchange ALEFs and AYINs. On the other hand, whereas some will argue that the Ashkenazi pronunciation (actually, non-pronunciation) of an AYIN is simply WRONG,I am still clinging to the view that it is the Ashkenazi way to consider an AYIN silent - even though it really isn't. So I'm still not ready to get into the ALEF-AYIN and CHET-CHAF issues, and the like, I feel it is okay to talk about merged letters. - PC]
Not all first-letter-of-the-word-with-a-SH'VA are going to give English speakers this problem. Only the one's that blend easily. V'SHINANTAM - the V sound and the SHIN are not going to blend, and we'll have no problem with this word. D'GANE- CHA, no problem. Wall-boards of the Mishkan - K'RASHIM. We are used to words like CRASH and will often blend the KUF and REISH. K' and then RA-SHIM. Not KRA-SHIM. Get the point? Ice cream? Not GLIDA. G'LIDA.
English has consonant blends or clusters; Hebrew doesn't. We should practice keeping them out of our Hebrew pronunciation. <more to come>