More Thoughts on Hebrew Immersion and Other Communicative Learning Approaches

A place for members to share information and news about books, software, and websites of interest.
Forum rules
Members will observe the rules for respectful discourse at all times!
Please sign all posts with your first and last (family) name.
talmid56
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:02 am
Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA

More Thoughts on Hebrew Immersion and Other Communicative Learning Approaches

Postby talmid56 » Sat May 12, 2018 7:46 pm

Karl, since we are no longer specifically talking about the blog, I decided to start a new thread, focussing on the immersion topic and related approaches to teaching and learning BH.

You wrote:
“First two years”? My goal is to have students start reading Tanakh within the first two months.


Well, I didn't put that as well as I might have. I should have written, "first course or two". While I haven't specifically checked the frequencies of the words I've used in the definitions, I am pretty sure most of them are high frequency. After I get closer to the end of the project, I will probably do that.

That said, the user would have to know already at least a few months worth of Hebrew. It is not intended for an absolute beginner.

I sent you a couple of links relating to this topic in a PM the other day. I encourage you to check them out.

I would suggest that it is not necessary to do a lot of "parse and translate" for your beginner class. There is a lot of grammar that can be learned in context that need not be dealt with in detail in the beginning stage. That is, it is not necessary right off the bat when teaching a verb form to say something like, “This is a Hiphil imperative, second person plural, of the verb X”. Most students won’t remember it or want to. But you can teach that it is a verb and that it is imperative plural, and a basic meaning in a context that they will recognize, comprehend, and remember. (You can always come back to give the parsing info later.)

You can do that a variety of ways: using visual aids such as pictures, drawings, puppets or dolls/action figures, gestures, etc. For instance, you could teach some simple action imperatives (e.g., Stand up! Sit down! Turn! Point to! Look! Touch!, etc.) by modeling the action while saying the Hebrew words. At this point the students are not expected to say the words, just to watch and listen. Later, they can imitate the action and then say the words. This method, known as Total Physical Response (TPR), is one I have used myself to teach Latin and Spanish. After the students had learned some commands like that, I taught some basic body part vocabulary and we combined some of the verbs with the body vocabulary and played “Simon Says” in Latin and Spanish. It worked great. Games are another great way of reinforcing vocabulary and engaging students. So is the use of music. And lots of repetition is important. As the Romans put it,Repetitio mater memoriae (“Repetition is the mother of memory.”).

An expansion of this uses simple storytelling that teach and reinforce vocabulary and grammar in a meaningful context. This is TPRS, Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling. I did not get to use this method myself, but I have seen it done in a Spanish class and it works well.

Here’s a site that explains this technique further and has some FAQs and answers: http://teachingcomprehensibly.com/tprs/. This method does include the use of English or another shared first language (L1) to provide comprehensible input (CI), such as writing the new vocabulary on a board or projecting it with the English alongside. It is left in view during the lesson so the students can see it.

I believe using some of these approaches works better to help the students learn and retain the language, and motivate them to learn and continue learning. All my modern language studies, even at beginning levels, used some of these methods, including learning and practicing short dialogs. I learned to be an excellent reader in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and moderately good reader in German. I believe, however, that becoming proficient in communicating and understanding the language in spoken form, at least to some extent, before I did extensive reading made me a more proficient reader. I did very little translation work using Spanish and French in my initial courses in high school. It was not until I took advanced courses in them at college that we did some translation exercises as a major activity. Even then, it was not done to check comprehension. That was done by asking and answering questions (orally or in writing) within the target language. This can be done with Hebrew as well.

In my experience of doing this kind of thing with BH, Latin, and Koine Greek for last ten years, I found that speaking a little and listening to readings, as well as reading out loud, helped me to be a better reader in the ancient languages. Biblical Hebrew teachers have been slower in adopting these kinds of approaches, but those who have report great success in helping students learn to read and understand the Hebrew Bible as Hebrew. Retention of the material and motivation to learn and continue learning was improved by using these methods also. Greek and Latin teachers who have adopted these approaches report similar successes.

Well, I hope these suggestions will be helpful. Just my שני שקלים (two shekels) worth.

דואיין דוליני
Dewayne Dulaney

P.S. There is a Facebook group, Biblical Hebrew, https://www.facebook.com/groups/626309647407559/?ref=nf_target&fref=nf moderated by our own Ben Putnam, which encourages these kinds of teaching/learning methods. I'm a member there. I encourage you to join us.
Dewayne Dulaney
דואיין דוליני

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨מֶשׁ׀ וּמָגֵן֮ יְהוָ֪ה אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים חֵ֣ן וְ֭כָבוֹד יִתֵּ֣ן יְהוָ֑ה לֹ֥א יִמְנַע־ט֝֗וֹב לַֽהֹלְכִ֥ים בְּתָמִֽים׃
--(E 84:11) 84:12 תהלים

kwrandolph
Posts: 867
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:51 am

Re: More Thoughts on Hebrew Immersion and Other Communicative Learning Approaches

Postby kwrandolph » Tue May 15, 2018 4:17 am

talmid56 wrote:P.S. There is a Facebook group, Biblical Hebrew, https://www.facebook.com/groups/626309647407559/?ref=nf_target&fref=nf moderated by our own Ben Putnam, which encourages these kinds of teaching/learning methods. I'm a member there. I encourage you to join us.


I applied to join this group, but my application is listed as “pending” the last couple of weeks. Either the group is so dead that even the moderator no longer visits it, or …

I notice that Ben Putnam is one of the moderators at Randall Buth’s Facebook group. That’s a group I’d never bother to join, for a number of reasons best not mentioned at this time, not even here.

Karl W. Randolph.

kwrandolph
Posts: 867
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:51 am

Re: More Thoughts on Hebrew Immersion and Other Communicative Learning Approaches

Postby kwrandolph » Tue May 15, 2018 6:33 am

talmid56 wrote:Karl, since we are no longer specifically talking about the blog, I decided to start a new thread, focussing on the immersion topic and related approaches to teaching and learning BH.


With Biblical Hebrew, we have a problem in developing an immersion program, or shall I say a few problems?

• the language is not that well known.

• we don’t know how it was pronounced. We have a few clues, but they’re not enough to reconstruct a speaking pattern for immersion teaching.

• we don’t know its grammar. For example, some people say that the verbal conjugations are according to tense, as in modern Israeli Hebrew, others claim aspect, still others a combination of both, while I and some others claim the conjugations are modal.

• many of the vocabulary are not that well known. Most published dictionaries of “Biblical Hebrew” go back to that by Gesenius, who was one of the founders of that theory known by various names, including Form Kritik, higher criticism, JEPD, etc. It appears that that theory has influenced how those lexicographers have written their glosses. I wrote my dictionary largely as a reaction against that theory, where I concentrate instead on how terms are actually used in Tanakh.

Given these problems, how would one develop an immersion program in Biblical Hebrew?

talmid56 wrote:You wrote:
“First two years”? My goal is to have students start reading Tanakh within the first two months.


Right now, this is my answer to as close to an immersive method that I can think of. That’s how I learned Biblical Hebrew, after realizing that much of what I was taught in school was “first year lies”, i.e. not true. “Lies” is too strong a word, as in implies intentional falsehood, rather what I mean by my repetition of that joke is that my professor unintentionally taught what turned out to be false.

I first concentrated on vocabulary. How can one recognize grammar if he doesn’t understand what is meant? Hence my dictionary.

As I got more and more vocabulary defined as to how terms are actually used in Tanakh, I started noticing patterns of usages, patterns of grammar.

But as I notice more grammar patterns, it’s now coming into a full circle, that they are now influencing how I understand vocabulary. To give an example, the word עלמה usually denotes a female virgin. But after learning that one of the patterns connected with the feminization of nouns is to denote an abstraction, I then came to the conclusion that the use of עלמה in Proverbs 30:19 is an abstraction “the unknown”, a poetic reference to the future. The context backs up that understanding of the term. (All other uses of עלמה in Tanakh denote virgins.)

talmid56 wrote:Well, I didn't put that as well as I might have. I should have written, "first course or two".


This is where I want to get students immersed into the text ASAP.

talmid56 wrote:That said, the user would have to know already at least a few months worth of Hebrew. It is not intended for an absolute beginner.


Why not an absolute beginner? Start out very slowly, introducing concepts as the text is being read.

talmid56 wrote:I would suggest that it is not necessary to do a lot of "parse and translate" for your beginner class.


How else would one learn as an absolute adult beginner of a new language?

talmid56 wrote:There is a lot of grammar that can be learned in context that need not be dealt with in detail in the beginning stage. That is, it is not necessary right off the bat when teaching a verb form to say something like, “This is a Hiphil imperative, second person plural, of the verb X”. Most students won’t remember it or want to. But you can teach that it is a verb and that it is imperative plural, and a basic meaning in a context that they will recognize, comprehend, and remember. (You can always come back to give the parsing info later.)


I would concentrate on the usages, not the forms, but the forms are necessary to recognize the usages.

talmid56 wrote:You can do that a variety of ways: using visual aids such as pictures, drawings, puppets or dolls/action figures, gestures, etc. For instance, you could teach some simple action imperatives (e.g., Stand up! Sit down! Turn! Point to! Look! Touch!, etc.) by modeling the action while saying the Hebrew words. At this point the students are not expected to say the words, just to watch and listen. Later, they can imitate the action and then say the words. This method, known as Total Physical Response (TPR), is one I have used myself to teach Latin and Spanish. After the students had learned some commands like that, I taught some basic body part vocabulary and we combined some of the verbs with the body vocabulary and played “Simon Says” in Latin and Spanish. It worked great. Games are another great way of reinforcing vocabulary and engaging students. So is the use of music. And lots of repetition is important. As the Romans put it,Repetitio mater memoriae (“Repetition is the mother of memory.”).


How many of these are suitable for teaching a written language whose pronunciation is unknown?

talmid56 wrote:An expansion of this uses simple storytelling that teach and reinforce vocabulary and grammar in a meaningful context. This is TPRS, Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling. I did not get to use this method myself, but I have seen it done in a Spanish class and it works well.


For modern languages, yes, they work well. This is probably as close as one can get to living in a country and having to speak the local language. Yet even this class work is not as effective as living in the country and speaking the local language.

talmid56 wrote:In my experience of doing this kind of thing with BH, Latin, and Koine Greek for last ten years, I found that speaking a little and listening to readings, as well as reading out loud, helped me to be a better reader in the ancient languages. Biblical Hebrew teachers have been slower in adopting these kinds of approaches, but those who have report great success in helping students learn to read and understand the Hebrew Bible as Hebrew. Retention of the material and motivation to learn and continue learning was improved by using these methods also. Greek and Latin teachers who have adopted these approaches report similar successes.


Languages well enough known that we know how they were spoken works. But let us not deceive ourselves that the immersion courses so far developed to teach “Biblical Hebrew” are actually teaching Biblical Hebrew. Not one such program that I have seen teaches Biblical Hebrew. They teach modern pronunciation, modern grammar, modern definitions, add a few archaizings and call it “Biblical Hebrew”. To someone who knows only Biblical Hebrew, the sentences found in those courses often come out as recognizably formulaic, stilted and sometimes just weird. I’d best stop looking at those courses so that my feel for Biblical Hebrew is not corrupted by them.

talmid56 wrote:Well, I hope these suggestions will be helpful. Just my שני שקלים (two shekels) worth.

דואיין דוליני
Dewayne Dulaney


Thanks, this discussion is interesting. I wonder how much we can include in teaching Biblical Hebrew.

Karl W. Randolph.

talmid56
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:02 am
Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA

Re: More Thoughts on Hebrew Immersion and Other Communicative Learning Approaches

Postby talmid56 » Tue May 15, 2018 8:56 am

talmid56 wrote:
That said, the user would have to know already at least a few months worth of Hebrew. It is not intended for an absolute beginner.



Why not an absolute beginner? Start out very slowly, introducing concepts as the text is being read.


Well, I was referring to the vocabulary used in my Hebrew definitions of the Jonah vocabulary. But yes, you could do that. It's just that vocabulary learning is cumulative, and the definitions assume some prior knowledge of Hebrew.

I'll address some of other points you made in this post later.
Dewayne Dulaney
דואיין דוליני

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨מֶשׁ׀ וּמָגֵן֮ יְהוָ֪ה אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים חֵ֣ן וְ֭כָבוֹד יִתֵּ֣ן יְהוָ֑ה לֹ֥א יִמְנַע־ט֝֗וֹב לַֽהֹלְכִ֥ים בְּתָמִֽים׃
--(E 84:11) 84:12 תהלים


Return to “Resources”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest