Imagine courses in Biblical Hebrew for those with a non-academic background, for those who took Biblical Hebrew and are still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and can’t remember anything except the bad grades, for those bright kids in home-school who always want to learn more, for those who are required to take Biblical Hebrew and don’t know how they are ever going to pass the course. It’s a tool to help those studying for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
These courses not for those amazingly gifted intellectual people who can learn anything easily—there are enough courses available for this select group. These courses are for busy people who have jobs, kids, and dogs but have a deep desire to learn Hebrew, but when they look at the first lesson in the grammar book, see the first video, they get overwhelmed, and most never get through the first few lessons.
I have a background in ESL. I trained teachers in ESL to go into restricted countries. I lived in Europe and Asia. I had to learn foreign languages. When I went to learn Biblical Hebrew, I was shocked that none of the methods that we use in ESL were being used by the instructors. Nearly all of them are using the methods of the 1950’s or worse.
In my courses, I not only use the methods of ESL, but I use other methods that I have developed. I am researching how the Western brain learns Hebrew. Hebrew speakers actually use a different part of their brain. It’s all rather interesting.
The first course that my students take, Meet the Hebrew Alphabet, is all about getting used to the shapes of the Hebrew letters and learning the sounds through words you already know. If you don’t know Hebrew, the letters don’t look like letters—they look like weird shapes. I have developed a simple method to help the students first categorise the shapes into five families: then they are ready to learn the names of the “letters.”
The second course, Learn Hebrew from the Bible we go over the alphabet again, learning the names of the letters, and learning one-syllable words with each new letter. In this way, the student learns words that have meaning: this means the student can remember the letters better because they have meaning. As soon as the student knows a few words, we are able to put them together in sentences, expressing a complete thought. So you see this course teaches Communicative Biblical Hebrew—the students learn how to express themselves in Biblical Hebrew. I think it is important to take the words off the pages of the bible and use them as language for the student. Right from the first lesson, the student can speak Hebrew to Someone who will understand—no matter how many mistakes—through prayer.
Recently, I found a book from a professor who lived in Hampshire, UK, not far away from me. He said that the way most teachers were teaching Hebrew was discouraging the students. He said that Hebrew was not a particularly difficult language. That man was Richard Grey. He wrote the book in 1734. Maybe it’s about time we look to change so that more and more people learn to read their bibles in the language in which it was written.