kwrandolph wrote:Homeskillet wrote:This is a very good thread. Question: kwrandolph mentioned reading through TaNaKh many times prior to really acquiring a good feel for the language patterns, styles, etc. I have the BHS parsed and I am wondering after reading these posts if it would help me to just begin reading the Hebrew Bible even if I don’t understand the vocabulary words—or should I just take Hebrew 1 again before frustrating myself even more (I’ve already taken a year of Hebrew)?
I took just one year of Hebrew. Even after that class, I decided to read the Bible in English translation. However, the only English translation I had at that time was the KJV. The deeper I tried to read that translation, the more I found I was looking up the passages in Hebrew to decipher old English. My grandfather saw what I was doing, and told me I was reading it backwards—I should be reading it in Hebrew and using the KJV to decipher the Hebrew. Well, he had a point, except I was already having trouble understanding the KJV, so if I was going to struggle understanding the language, might as well be the Hebrew, so be it, and forget the KJV. I ended up reading Tanakh without an interlinear nor a translation by my side.
I have found that the hardest part of learning a foreign language, any foreign language, is acquiring sufficient vocabulary to be fluent in the language. And the only way to acquire the vocabulary is simply to use the language. For Biblical Hebrew, because it’s a language that hasn’t been spoken for over two millennia, the way to “use” the language is simply to read it over and over again. You’ll find yourself looking up a word for the 50th time, frustrated that you had looked it up so many times before, and still had forgotten it. If you’re like me with dyslexia, you’ll look up the wrong words, or words that don’t exist. As long as you recognize which forms are verbs, which are nouns, how adjectives agree with nouns, a few basic rules which you should have picked up in your first year class, you should be able to work out the meaning of a passage. Even so, the first time through you’ll make many mistakes. I did. That’s why I read it a second time, a third time, and so forth.
So many people are looking for shortcuts—“If only I read this grammar” or “if only I study that textbook” but I’m here to throw cold water on that idea. There’s no substitute for reading the text, all of it, from cover to cover, as many times as God gives you opportunity to do so. So sit down, pick up your copy of Tanakh, read בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ and the next verse, and the next verse, until you run out of verses to read, then repeat.
Karl W. Randolph.
Very insightful Karl (if I may presume to call you by your first name). I will definitely be taking your advice.
As I have already noted, the fact that I learned Hebrew 1 w. the Masoretic vowel pointings is very frustrating for me personally. Your post above is a good example of my frustration. As soon as I saw the Hebrew text you posted (w.out vowels) I felt the same despair that I feel every time I read a Hebrew word w.out vowels (e.g., Israeli signage). I am wondering if I should just invest in TaNaKh w.out pointings (if I can even locate one in software or elsewhere).
I hate that I got dependent upon vowels initially. Whatever the case, I will be implementing this reading methodology (sort of a reading immersion I suppose).