The "dagesh" is the dot sometimes found in Hebrew letters. This "dot" may be either a dagesh lene or dagesh forte. The dagesh lene may appear in six of the Hebrew consonants (if you need help learning the Hebrew alphabet, watch this video): bet, gimel, dalet, kaf, pe or tav (ת, פ, כ, ד, ב).
An easy and common way to remember these consonsonants is the acronym "BeGaD KeFaT," functioning similarly to the mnemonic device of "Roy G. Biv" to remember the colors of the rainbow.
The dagesh lene serves as a pronunciation cue — with the dagesh lene the pronunciation of the Hebrew consonant is "hard."
The dagesh forte doubles the consonant and may be placed in ANY consonant except the gutturals (alef, he, het, ayin or res). When the forte stands in a "BeGaD KeFaT" letter, it also "hardens" the pronunciation of that consonant.
Rules for the Dagesh - Simplified!
A "dot" in the middle of any letter OTHER than a "BeGaD KeFaT" letter MUST be a dagesh forte. Things don't get complicated till we deal with the "forte." As stated above, a dagesh forte may stand in ANY consonant INCLUDING the "BeGaD KeFaT" letters (with the exception of the gutturals).
Instead of memorizing confusing rules about the dagesh lene and forte, REMEMBER THIS: a dagesh lene NEVER stands after a vowel! If there is a "dot" in a letter after a vowel it MUST be dagesh forte!
Keeping the Lene and Forte Distinct in Your Memory
Keeping this ONE rule in mind will greatly reduce your confusion when you encounter the dagesh. But quite often students don't remember which dagesh is which dagesh. In other words, does the "forte" harden pronunciation or does the "lene" double the consonant's value or vice versa?
Here is an easy way to keep the dagesh lene and forte distinct in your mind and memory: associate and visualize the dagesh "lene" as being "lean" as in lean (sound-alike), hard muscle. This will "cue" your memory to harden the consonants in which the lene appears.
Associate and visualize the dagesh "forte" as being dual towered fort (sound-alike). A fort must have a door, I visualize the Hebrew "qames" (ָ) vowel as the door of the fort. This helps me to always remember that after a vowel, the dagesh MUST be a forte! Simple!
More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this brief article on the dagesh forte and lene has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Hebrew grammar and paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!