reading hebrew

Trevor & Julie Peterson speederson at
Mon Jun 11 04:31:48 EDT 2001

I'm sure there are others more qualified than I to comment on this issue.
One thing that has helped me is to do a lot of reading out loud in Hebrew.
Read it out loud first, without stopping to translate.  Maybe read the whole
passage that way.  Work on smoothing out your transitions from word to word,
reading steadily first, then adding speed.  After you've read through the
whole passage, maybe more than once, ask yourself whether any of it made any
sense.  Next, read through verse by verse.  Still do pretty much the same
thing.  (Don't translate yet!)  After a few repetitions on that, now
translate as necessary.  Once you've finished your translation, throw away
whatever you've written down.  Read it through again.  Does any more of it
make sense?  Keep going, with variation.  This is kind of a long process to
get through one passage, and I don't often get the chance to do it as fully
as I'm suggesting here; but I've found that just reading significant
quantities has helped me to become more "fluent" in terms of how well I can
say a whole phrase or clause.  On forms and vocabulary that I have learned
well, it has given me the ability to read them and digest them without
having to translate.  I think something like this, combined with continued
learning of vocabulary and forms, will help.

Like I said, though, others probably have better ideas.  I've hardly arrived
yet, so my system may not work all that well.  Something I've started
recently is trying to memorize passages, making sure I can quote them back
with understanding.  These are all baby-steps, of course, but short of
learning Modern Hebrew, which probably would give you a lot more to work
with, or taking Randall Buth's Biblical Hebrew summer course in Israel, they
get you a little bit closer to the goal.

Trevor Peterson

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kim Fleming [mailto:kfleming at]
> Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2001 11:16 AM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: reading hebrew
> Early last year I began teaching myself biblical Hebrew using Bonnie
> Kittel's grammar and then Ehud Ben Zvi's intermediate grammar. I have now
> just completed two semesters of Hebrew at Erskine Seminary in Due West, SC
> near where I live. I have become fairly proficient in reading from some of
> the easier books of the bible - Genesis, Samuel etc. But I realize for me
> now it is almost an entirely visual language - instead of reading
> IN hebrew,
> I am visually identifying the words and hearing them in english
> in my head.
> for instance, when I see "vayyomer ___", I don't think "vayyomer ___", I
> think "and ___ said" etc.
> This is the first second language I have attempted to learn - and though I
> won't have much occasion to speak it, what I mainly want to do is
> be able to
> read it - Is this a bad habit I should try to break now, before it becomes
> too ingrained? Should I force myself to slow down and learn to
> associate the
> hebrew sounds with the intended meanings? How do most of you all whose
> original language is not Hebrew read the Hebrew?
> appreciate your comments,
> Kim
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