Morse Code of Hebrew: Dots and Dashes AKA The Nikkudim

I believe that God likes things simple. The niqqudim are a great tool but look very foreboding to the new student. Trying to learn the niqqudim on your first lessons of Hebrew is like trying to learn a software code like C++ at the same time.

As more and more people all over the world have this new innate hunger to learn Hebrew, there is a need for what I call a bridge course that prepares people for the more complicated traditional Hebrew courses. I am developing such a course. I developed it so I could learn Hebrew in a way that would work for me–using what I learned in teaching a language.

People who want to learn Hebrew now are not necessarily academic or technical. There are enough Hebrew words in English that you can use in beginning lessons that form this bridge from English to Hebrew. For the scholarly person, this method can seem too childish, but what I have learned in teaching language is that we do not learn it academically like Maths but it is developed in another part of our brain. We really learned language well when we were little. As soon as we became self-conscious, around adolescence, we lost that ability to make funny sounds. The verse that I use is that as we must all be like little children to come into the Kingdom of God, so we must have that same humility when learning a language. And it is important for the teacher who guides people into Hebrew to create an atmosphere of creativity and ease.

Many people who want to learn Hebrew now are either from the USA or UK. Anglos are notoriously bad in learning foreign languages because their mother tongue is the lingua franca of the world. We just don’t have the same innate motivation as others. Therefore, we especially need these bridge courses to get to the other side of this river that you speak of without freaking out and giving up.

Scholars tend to be proud and esoteric (one of those Greek words). In other words, they like that normal people can’t understand what they do. I used to teach a series of classes on how to translate Academese when I realized how many of my students froze when they tried to understand academic books. When you analyze their language, you find that they dress simple concepts in complicated wording that is unnecessary–like using the passive voice.

Hebrew isn’t like this at all.   It is a concrete and functional language that worked for shepherds and farmers.   Understanding the Biblical Hebrew mentality and culture is essential for learning Hebrew.  It could be that students should first have courses in Biblical Hebrew culture and the mentality before they ever start learning the language or at least do it concurrently.  Just my 2 shekels’ worth. 


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