Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

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

Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by talmid56 »

שלום, חבורים! The natural tendency for most of us, due to the typical way we were taught BH, is to translate a passage first to check comprehension. We do this either at sight or mentally, or by writing it out. This is true both for individuals and for teachers who ask this of their students. But, I submit that there is a better way to start the process of comprehending a Hebrew text, or to check that in students. Why not ask questions of the text in Hebrew, and answer them in Hebrew instead? After all, we should be learning the interrogatives in BH anyway, and teaching them. There are many passages in the Tanakh where these particles are used, so there is ample material for learning them. Whether or not you use Biblical Hebrew communicatively, both research and experience shows that language acquisition and mastery is aided by using the language as actively as possible. This is a simple tool anyone can learn to use.

If you haven’t learned the BH interrogatives yet, or want a refresher, there are several places online to help you, besides the discussions in the textbooks. Here are three, the first two of which I’ve started using.

UnfoldingWord Hebrew Grammar, “Particle Interrogative”, https://tinyurl.com/y76xgn9x

Hebrew4Christians, “Hebrew Interrogative Pronouns”, https://tinyurl.com/ycpunszl

Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley Hebrew Grammar, “37. The Interrrogative and Indefinite Pronouns”, Wikisource, https://tinyurl.com/y7wrdjah

(Digitizing the grammar to HTML incomplete; in progress)

The first two sources include uses of interrogative He as well as the particles/pronouns.

Now, I am not that great at Hebrew composition yet. While I started adding communicative methods to my Hebrew learning about ten years ago, it has mostly been oral and aural. As I have to do it on my own without a teacher, my Hebrew writing has been mostly confined to a few emails every now and then with other Hebrew students. (I do plan to start doing some more BH composition online in this and other fora in the near future.) But, as I was thinking about this (and a tip of the fedora here to Paul Nitz and Jonathan Robie of the Ancient Greek Best Practices forum and B-Greek, who encourage this practice in Koine Greek studies. They also give some great examples of how to do it.), I realized that it need not be difficult to get started. Start learning the Hebrew interrogatives, then pick a text to try this on. I started learning them (and am still in process of doing so). Then I picked a brief narrative, Exodus 2:23-25, and composed some questions based directly on the vocabulary of the passage. I then answered them. All in Hebrew!

Why do this, you may ask? Well, I will tell you what it does (so far) for me. First, it forces me to think in Hebrew—to treat Hebrew as Hebrew, to enjoy it on its own terms. (When I say, “forces me to think” I don’t mean that in a negative way at all; far from it.)
Then, it gives me another way to use the language actively. I believe that it can only help, not hurt, my learning. And, I believe it helps my comprehension. (Similarly, I believe that listening a lot to recordings of the Tanakh in Hebrew helps comprehension.) Now, I don’t mean to suggest you shouldn’t look up vocabulary or grammar in lexicons or grammars, I don’t mean to say you shouldn’t translate. But, I do mean that this approach can really benefit you in your Hebrew studies. And if you teach Hebrew and aren’t already using this method, why not try it with your students? You might be surprised at the good it does.

Now I present the exercise for your consideration. First, I give the Exodus text (after a heading of my own composition). Bible text is that of the Westminster Leningrad Codex, courtesy of Bible Gateway, online at https://tinyurl.com/yc3m39sg. Then I give the questions in Hebrew. In the following post, I’ll give the questions again with the answers. There are sets of questions for each verse. Note that, besides the interrogative words themselves, I have also used the interrogative He. With the latter, you can do yes/no responses.

I will also post about this on my blog, and provide the exercise in both formats (questions only, and also questions with answers) in downloadable, printable form.

Of course, there are other questions and answers that could be used. And, the answers could be expanded upon. But, as this is a first attempt and proof of concept, I wanted to keep it simple, basing the vocabulary on the text itself.

As I said, I don’t consider myself skilled at BH composition yet. So, corrections to my Hebrew are most welcome!

I would love to hear from any of you who have tried this approach yourselves. Especially if it helped you, or your students.

All right then. Here’s the exercise!



[right]שמות ב

ידע אלהים את בני ישראל מן העבדה

23 וַיְהִי֩ בַיָּמִ֨ים הָֽרַבִּ֜ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיָּ֙מָת֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֵּאָנְח֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִן־הָעֲבֹדָ֖ה וַיִּזְעָ֑קוּ וַתַּ֧עַל שַׁוְעָתָ֛ם
אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מִן־הָעֲבֹדָֽה׃
24 וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־נַאֲקָתָ֑ם וַיִּזְכֹּ֤ר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־בְּרִית֔וֹ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃
25 וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּ֖דַע אֱלֹהִֽים׃ ס

שאלות ותשבת

פסק 23

1.
מי מת?
2.
מה עשה בני ישראל?
3.
למה אנחו?
4.
למי תעל שועתםכ?
5.
למה תעל שועתם?
6.
התעל אל האלהים?

פסק 24
1.
השמע אלהים?
2.
מה שמע אלהים?
3.
מי זכר?
4.
מה זכר?
5.
עם מי ברית אלהים?

פסק 25

1.
מי ראה?
2.
מי ראה אלהים?
3.
ומה עשה אלהים?
4.
חידע אלהים?
[/right]
Dewayne Dulaney
דואיין דוליני

Blog: https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨מֶשׁ׀ וּמָגֵן֮ יְהוָ֪ה אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים חֵ֣ן וְ֭כָבוֹד יִתֵּ֣ן יְהוָ֑ה לֹ֥א יִמְנַע־ט֝֗וֹב לַֽהֹלְכִ֥ים בְּתָמִֽים׃
--(E 84:11) 84:12 תהלים
talmid56
Posts: 178
Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:02 am
Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA

Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by talmid56 »

Now, here is the exercise again, with the answers. Feel free to try it yourself with different questions and/or answers!

[right]שמות ב

ידע אלהים את בני ישראל מן העבדה

23 וַיְהִי֩ בַיָּמִ֨ים הָֽרַבִּ֜ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיָּ֙מָת֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֵּאָנְח֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִן־הָעֲבֹדָ֖ה וַיִּזְעָ֑קוּ וַתַּ֧עַל שַׁוְעָתָ֛ם
אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מִן־הָעֲבֹדָֽה׃
24 וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־נַאֲקָתָ֑ם וַיִּזְכֹּ֤ר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־בְּרִית֔וֹ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃
25 וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּ֖דַע אֱלֹהִֽים׃ ס

שאלות ותשבת

פסק 23

1.
מי מת?
מלך מצרים
2.
מה עשה בני ישראל?
אנחו
3.
למה אנחו?
מן העבדה
4.
למי תעל שועתם?
אל האלהים
5.
למה תעל שועתם?
מן העבדה
6.
התעל אל האלהים?
כן, תעל אל האלהים.

פסק 24
1.
השמע אלהים?
כן, שמע אלהים.
2.
מה שמע אלהים?
שמע את נאקתם.
3.
מי זכר?
זכר אלהים.

4.
מה זכר?
זכר את בריתו.
5.
עם מי ברית אלהים?
את אברהם, את יצחק, ואת יעקב.

פסק 25

1.
מי ראה?
ראה אלהים.
2.
מי ראה אלהים?
ראה את בני ישראל.
3.
ומה עשה אלהים?
ידע אלהים.
4.
חידע אלהים?
כן, ידע אלהים.[/right]
Dewayne Dulaney
דואיין דוליני

Blog: https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨מֶשׁ׀ וּמָגֵן֮ יְהוָ֪ה אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים חֵ֣ן וְ֭כָבוֹד יִתֵּ֣ן יְהוָ֑ה לֹ֥א יִמְנַע־ט֝֗וֹב לַֽהֹלְכִ֥ים בְּתָמִֽים׃
--(E 84:11) 84:12 תהלים
kwrandolph
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by kwrandolph »

The idea is good, but you really need to know more Hebrew. You need to get a feel for the language.

Your first statement, “שאלות ותשבת” did you want to mean “Questions and she/you stops” or שאלות ומענות “Questions and answers”?

Your question מה עשה בני ישראל should be מה עשו בני ישראל because בני ישראל is plural.

Your question למי תעל שועתם “To whom should go their cry for help?” or did you want to say למי עלתה שועתם ? The same verbal form with the next two questions.

In Biblical Hebrew, an answer meaning “Yes” didn’t start with כן, rather with repeating the verb or subject of the question. So the last question on verse 23 the answer should be עלתה and the first question on verse 24 שמע and the last question of verse 25 ידע .

The last question of verse 24 probably should be את מי עשה אלהים ברית so that you have a complete sentence.

Practicing the wrong things won’t help.

Yes, I made many similar mistakes when I was just starting to read Hebrew. But I just read and read, letting the language flow over me, the closest I could come to immersion.

Karl W. Randolph.
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Jason Hare
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by Jason Hare »

kwrandolph wrote:The idea is good, but you really need to know more Hebrew. You need to get a feel for the language.
Generally, that's contrary to the research data regarding second-language acquisition. As long as you the language is just a bit above what you can produce, you should be able to understand enough to give short answers according to the context. In this case, though, the language user would need to know that וַיֵּאָנְחוּ is niphal and how to say it without vav-consecutive as נֶאֶנְחוּ, which wasn't reflected correctly in the questions. That's something that the teacher would be expected to put into the questions, and the student would simply need to parrot the language.
kwrandolph wrote:Your first statement, “שאלות ותשבת” did you want to mean “Questions and she/you stops” or שאלות ומענות “Questions and answers”?
He meant שְׁאֵלוֹת וּתְשׁוּבוֹת "questions and answers." Gesenius has "answer, reply" as a meaning of תְּשׁוּבָה. This isn't outside of the biblical sense, and it's certainly in-line with modern usage.
kwrandolph wrote:Practicing the wrong things won’t help.
All of the questions could obviously be cleaned up and corrected. Not only that, but אָכֵן could certainly be used to respond to a question in the affirmative. There are lots of small things that need to be perfected by instructors who want to teach Hebrew communicatively, but that doesn't mean that the concept is bad.

Jason
Last edited by Jason Hare on Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
Jason Hare
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Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

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Jason Hare
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by Jason Hare »

This really is a good idea. My students are still working through the Joseph story from the latter chapters of Genesis. I've gotta think of some practice questions for those passages, and I think I'll take after your suggestions here. I'll write some things up later today and see what you think.
Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
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Jason Hare
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by Jason Hare »

@Dewayne Dulaney
Have you considered writing me back in the composition subforum? :-)
Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
kwrandolph
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by kwrandolph »

Dear Jason:

First of all, I wouldn’t put too much weight on opinions by Gesenius—it was his funky definitions that started me on writing my dictionary. I checked his definitions against how words were actually used as listed in a concordance, and found his definitions didn’t always fit actual usages.

The word תשובת is used only six times in Tanakh, not once in the sense of “answer”.

I don’t know of a single place where כן or אכן are used as an affirmative response to a question. Yes, I know it’s modern Israeli Hebrew, but as far as I know, not Biblical.

While answering questions can help, they need to have someone available for corrections. Without being corrected, one is likely to be confirmed in error.

I mentioned that I read a lot, but I also memorized whole chapters.

Karl W. Randolph.
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Jason Hare
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by Jason Hare »

kwrandolph wrote:First of all, I wouldn’t put too much weight on opinions by Gesenius—it was his funky definitions that started me on writing my dictionary. I checked his definitions against how words were actually used as listed in a concordance, and found his definitions didn’t always fit actual usages.
Have you published a copy of your dictionary?
kwrandolph wrote:The word תשובת is used only six times in Tanakh, not once in the sense of “answer”.
The KJV translates it as "answer(s)" in two verses, in which Job was countering the responses his companions had given to his predicament:
answer-tshuvah.jpg
kwrandolph wrote:I don’t know of a single place where כן or אכן are used as an affirmative response to a question. Yes, I know it’s modern Israeli Hebrew, but as far as I know, not Biblical.
I'm sure it would be perfectly fine to say something like:

"Biblical Hebrew has no specific direct affirmative answer to yes/no questions. In being a little anachronistic, we can use the post-biblical כן to respond to questions in the affirmative, understanding that כן in biblical Hebrew means "thus" or "honest." It also serves at time as a synonym of אכן, meaning "indeed." It is only in this sense that we will use it in the way that modern Hebrew does."

Once a caveat is established, there's no real problem with allowing people to use a later form that will simply make the acquisition of Hebrew easier for students. No one is going to speak 100% biblical Hebrew, since that will never cover every situation of modern life, and learning כן as a way to say "yes" is not damaging to comprehension of the biblical text corpus.
kwrandolph wrote:While answering questions can help, they need to have someone available for corrections. Without being corrected, one is likely to be confirmed in error.
Do you teach Hebrew yourself? If I remember correctly, you don't. One must distinguish between a linguistic purist (which you attempt to be) and one who must make pedagogical concessions (like a teacher).
kwrandolph wrote:I mentioned that I read a lot, but I also memorized whole chapters.
You're not alone in that.
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Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
ducky
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by ducky »

About the word כן which used as "Yes" as an answer for a question...
There is an explanation in the Hebrew Academy site
https://hebrew-academy.org.il/2018/03/1 ... %99%d7%aa/

In short, they explain that in the Bible, mostly it is used as "so" = כך
for example:
Ex. 7:6 כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' אֹתָם כֵּן עָשׂוּ
Josh. 1:17 כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְנוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה כֵּן נִשְׁמַע אֵלֶיךָ

They add that rare cases use this word in the meaning of "Truth", (that is close to "Yes" or "Correct")
Examples:
Ex. 10:29 וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה כֵּן דִּבַּרְתָּ לֹא אֹסִף עוֹד רְאוֹת פָּנֶיךָ
Num. 27:7 כֵּן בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת
Josh 2:4 וַתִּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה אֶת שְׁנֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים וַתִּצְפְּנוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר כֵּן בָּאוּ אֵלַי הָאֲנָשִׁים וְלֹא יָדַעְתִּי מֵאַיִן הֵמָּה

They say that in the Bible, the answer was actually a repeat for the question
such in Gen. 43:27-28; Gen 29:5.

In the Mishnaic/Talmudic they started to use the word הן as a positive answer word.
And in the Medieval era, the word כן was started to be used up to our time.

***************
As for תשובה
In Job, it does come as an "Answer".
The other word for Answer is מענה and the verb ענה.
And when Job's friends speak, the text starts with ויען.
and so, when Job says תשובה it is like saying מענה since he's talking about their replies to him.
David Hunter
ducky
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Re: Don't Translate First to Check Comprehension-Do A Q & A in Hebrew!

Post by ducky »

And in a more simple way about תשובה.
תשובה is basically a Return, and in Job, it clearly not about a physical return of his friends, but it is about their return in words, aka answer or reply

I did try to find this word in this meaning in Ben Sirah and in Qumran and I didn't find.
But it does appear in the Mishna. Even though, also in the Mishna, it comes more in the religious meaning of repentance.
David Hunter
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