What Makes These Classes Effective?
Biblical Hebrew is a unique language- a window into the world of ancient times. Unlike learning Spanish or Israeli Hebrew, you won't able to travel to another country and hear this exact dialect in a cafe or market!
However - just because Biblical Hebrew is an ancient language, does NOT mean we have to learn it as though it were a dead language!
We learn Biblical Hebrew as a living language, beginning just like you learned your first language, while still diving deep into the technical aspects needed to fully understand the beauty and nuance within Biblical texts. (We just do that second part naturally, and gradually - once you're comfortable with the language itself!)
Traditional Biblical Hebrew is taught as a dead language, but I've found it is effective to do things quite differently than the traditional approach.
The Traditional Approach:
Simply learning "Biblical Hebrew" via books or reading/writing lessons
(though the most common , traditional way of learning this language), will not bring true mastery
for the overwhelming majority of learners.
Traditionally, Biblical Hebrew is not used as a conversational language in the classroom, nor is it taught gradually and understandably the way a new language is best learned. Internalization is not the tradtional goal.
Rather, the most common goal in teaching Biblical Hebrew is helping the student to either pass their college course, or, to learn their Bar/Bat Mitzvah passage.
This involves strenuous memorization of hundreds of words and grammatical structures that make little sense to the learner.
At Origins Hebrew Studies, we don’t expect your brain to memorize black-and-white lists,
with hundreds of new words you’ve never even pronounced before. (You can exhale now. :)
Decades of teaching ancient languages this way have only produced tiny fraction of success among students. Whenver is possibe, I teach my students via the Comprehension Method, and the Conversational Method. This is very rarely done with ancient languages, but I believe it is the key to truly experiencing and retaining this beautiful language.
The classes at Origins Hebrew Studies are based on the reality that language must be USED and UNDERSTOOD in order to be fully learned.
The Conversational Approach:
Most Biblical Hebrew classes and Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons are taught by Biblical Hebrew teachers
who are non-Hebrew speakers. Without the tools needed to teach the conversational, experiential aspect of a language, the Hebrew is taught primarily via left-brain strategies: reading, memorizing, and cramming black-and-white lists of words are what is required of students to achieve a passing grade, or to memorize their passage.
Also in contrast to many American Biblical Hebrew seminary classes and liturgical lessons, we focus heavily on speaking aloud our newly learned words and phrases in class. We also focus on truly "Hebrew" pronunciation. The accent and special sounds are critical for the brain to "feel" the language and predict patterns within new words, and, to be able to utilize modern Israeli tools such as contemporary versions of Biblical songs as aids for accelerated learning.
The instructor is fluent in Israeli Hebrew, and designs the lessons to incorporate speaking activities in each class to ensure true mastery of the new concepts.
Research shows that though speaking is the final stage in mastery of new items (learners can hear and understand new words much sooner than they can accurately use them aloud), speaking is nevertheless essential for reinforcing the new language and preventing language loss that so often occurs with those who only take beginning level language courses.
They say, "If you don't use it, you lose it."
I would add, "If you can't use it aloud, with confidence, you'll lose it."
The Comprehension Approach:
In contrast to many Biblical Hebrew and Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes, we emphasize fully understanding a word's meaning in context before expecting one to "check it off the list" of learned words and grammar.
This involves teaching new words similarly to how you learned your first language -
via pathways like sight, song, special intonations, gestures, imitation, and experience.
Linear translation (בַּיִת = house) is often helpful, but not when one is attempting to truly "learn" and retain large volumes of new language in a short amount of time. A much more effective and efficient strategy for the brain to assimilate new information is to hear and see the actual item - not just to read a written translation.
We use pictures, songs, stories, to lay a colorful framework for the brain to learn much like one ascends a spiral staircase. As we turn the corner again and again on the staircase through the same familiar songs and stories, we are ascending higher and higher, naturally and easily, adding slightly more complex words onto the well-known structure we've built over time.
Both consistent pronunciation and free-form verbal use (conversation), and understanding what is being taught (comprehensive input) are essential if you truly want to get this language “IN YOU”.