reading hebrew

George Athas gathas at goconnect.net
Mon Jun 11 06:34:39 EDT 2001


Kim,

I'd suggest breaking the habit early. The reason I suggest this is that the visual
identification method can make minced meat of various Hebrew idioms. There are just some
combinations of words which simply do not translate so easily into English, and using the
visual indentification method will really confuse you.

One of the things I tell my students is that you need to get the "feel" or "vibe" of the
language. This involves understanding not just *what* the Hebrew texts say, but also *how*
they say it. Hebrew expression can be (and is) quite different to English. English uses
its own system of logic to express itself and Hebrew uses its own system of logic (that's
another way of saying English and Hebrew grammar and syntax are not necessarily direct
equivalents). The earlier you can get into the thinking pattern of the language, the
better you will be at understanding the fine nuances and twists of Hebrew that so many
English translations miss or simply cannot translate adequately.

I also tell my students that studying Ancient Near Eastern culture (and studying it well!)
really sets the ball rolling towards getting the feel of Hebrew because you have at least
tasted a little of what the ancients' world was like. The visual identification method
probably gives you a two-dimensional appreciation of the richness of Hebrew. Getting into
the habit of reading Hebrew as Hebrew will hopefully get you to appreciate the full 3D
richness of the language and its expression. And Hebrew is definitely a rich language --
there are few languages which have such a capacity for punning or making plays on words.
It's hard work getting to that stage and it takes years and years of exposure to the
language, but it's well worth the effort.

Best regards,

GEORGE ATHAS
(Sydney, Australia)
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