very-little-Hebrew questions

Bryan Rocine brocine at
Sun Aug 1 17:36:08 EDT 1999

Hi Janie,
You wrote:

> Now, I've been running around like a decapitated chicken
this summer trying NOT to forget all the
> rules I learned, how to conjugate I-nun verbs in Hiphil,
what happens to hollow verbs in pi'el,
> the whole megillah of multiple prepositions and how they
change in meaning .. you get the picture.
> So, to the many experienced teachers on this list I have
to ask:  how much of that stuff do you
> REALLY expect someone to remember at the beginning of the
second year?

I think it's best for students to take their second year
right after their first so that they *do* remember "that
stuff."  To achieve the goal of lifetime competence in BH
there must be a kind of prolonged immersion in or
interaction with the Hebrew text until the language
structures and patterns have a chance to take root in the
student--you know, the ol' "use it or lose it" truth... ;-)
I think that the student of BH needs two or three years
during which he is in the uninterupted state of learning
more about the language than he is forgetting if he wants to
set himself up for a lifetime of using BH.

And how big is it
> realistic to expect someone's vocabulary to be at the end
of the first year, in terms of sight
> reading without a lexicon?

A minimum of the 400 most frequent "words" (verbal roots,
nouns, particles, adjectives, etc.).  This would cover the
"words" in the Hebrew Bible that are used about 100 times or
more.  By adding another 400 "words" in a second year
course, the student learns all the "words" that are used
down to a frequency of 40-50 times.

> Second question: how do people EVER learn to read Hebrew
without the pointing?  In so many cases
> it seems that the difference between one binyan and
another is entirely in the vowels ... how can
> context help in that instance?

Language learning takes place naturally by learning spoken
language first, then written; to comprehend first, then to
produce or compose.  Since BH is a written-only dialect of
Hebrew and we really only seek to read it and not also write
it or speak it, we learn and teach it rather unnaturally
(sort of backwards, in fact!), learning to read it without
first gaining conversational competence.  If we could learn
BH more naturally, as a spoken language learned first for
survival, and then as a written language, we might *never*
have to use the vowel points except to occasionally
eliminate ambiguities that context could not otherwise
clarify.  As you probably know, modern Israeli Hebrew,
unlike BH in that it is a living dialect of Hebrew, is
usually written without vowel points.

> Just a curious little newbie here.  Thanks in advance for

We welcome you and your questions.  One of the missions of
this list is indeed to help people learn BH.


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206

(office) 315.437.6744
(home) 315.479.8267

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