reading hebrew

Liz Fried lizfried at
Sun Jun 10 16:58:10 EDT 2001

I'd like to reassure people that it is possible to go
from a read-only language to actually speaking.
I just got back from 12 days in Israel and was quite pleased
to realize that I could get by with my 2500 year old vocabulary
and grammar (with some English additions). Once tho I told
the waiter that I wanted tay Ham taHat ha Soda (that I had
originally ordered). He brought me both the tea and the soda. I
learned only later that taHat does not mean "instead of" in
Modern Hebrew.
I had a lot of fun tho. People answered me in ENglish, but
I continued with my BH.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Bearpecs at [mailto:Bearpecs at]
Sent: Sunday, June 10, 2001 11:23 AM
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: reading hebrew

  In a message dated 6/10/01 10:00:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
  kfleming at writes:

    How do most of you all whose
    original language is not Hebrew read the Hebrew?

  I think this is an extremely important question, and worth our discussing.
  came to Biblical Hebrew after beginning to learn Modern Hebrew, so I was
  already speaking and hearing the language.  That, however, also has its
  downside:  First, it's easy to mistakenly apply MH concepts to BH, such as
  thinking as if the prefixed verb form indicates future tense (MH) versus
  imperfective aspect (BH).  Second, MH conflates sounds, so the distinction
  between kaph and qof may be lost (unless your MH teacher is from an
  Arabic-speaking Sephardic/Oriental community).  (I had the advantage of
  prior linguistics study, so it was easier to understand the MH/BH

  I'm sure that mentally translating from the second language into English
  an inevitable step in language learning.  (I remember the first time
  spoke to me in Hebrew and I *didn't* need to translate before answering.)
  But I imagine that it must be more difficult to get beyond that if you are
  only reading and not speaking and hearing the language.  Do others agree?
  anyone familiar with language-acquisition studies that would answer the

  I do have one small suggestion.  Move as quickly as possible from using
  vocabulary lists and textbook glossaries to real translations using BDB
  other lexicons.  Also make use of multiple English translations, including
  modern and classical, Jewish and Christian.  (I think it's a significant
  lacuna that many Christians studying bible don't use the New JPS
  translation.)  The danger, of course, is that "wayommer" does NOT always
  "and ___ said".  It could be "[then] he said", or "but he will say", etc.
  Getting in the habit of translating it as "and ___ said" therefore leads

  I admit I've never really mastered a language that is only read, so I'm
  particularly interested in hearing from others about that experience.

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