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Randall Buth ButhFam at
Sun Apr 14 13:50:57 EDT 2002

shalom Keith,

Glad to hear of your desire to learn Hebrew.
behatslaHa. (=may you succeed)

>I do have one question that I would like some feedback for. I currently
>use the Gesinius, Weingreen, and Mansoor (Vol. 1) grammars to study
>through. What are your opinions regarding these grammars and what would
>you recommend for a beginner like me? Thanks for your input.
>-Keith Saare

Very briefly --

1. I think your teacher would agree that Gesenius is not really 
recommended for someone trying to learn Hebrew. 
It is a reference grammar, that is, a listing of typical structures, common
descriptions, along with listings of exceptions and discussion. A good
book to own, but you'll need to do something else if you ever want to
learn the language.

2. Weingreen's strength is describing the morphology or shape of Hebrew 
words. His weakness is syntax and semantics. E.g., he frequently has 
students read sentences that begin with a finite verb followed by a
something quite rare in Hebrew narrative. That is, it is not the way Hebrew
works. veAvraham halax el ha-har would be better. Also, students 
of Weingreen frequently end up thinking that the Hebrew binyanim 
can be 'conjugated' from roots as words may be needed by a biblical
writer, or that the vav-hahippux (aka:waw consecutive) system needs 
to have a preceeding verb to provide the 'aspect' for the verb involved. 
Neither of these latter ideas is true of Hebrew. 
3. Mansoor. Ditto.

A basic problem: 
If you try to learn a language by studying descriptions of morphology you 
will soon reach a never-ending plateau. That is not how people success-
fully learn languages. Reading tons of texts helps, but even that has it 
shortcomings if not snowballing on a kernal of an internalized language 
core. (Twenty-thirty years won't do what, e.g., Arabic students can do 
in two or three. PS: I'm not advocating that you drop Hebrew for 
Arabic, but that you apply common, human, language learning sense 
to your Hebrew learning.)

The natural solution is for any serious student to spend time using the 
language that they are trying to learn so that it becomes internalized. 
That will probably mean speaking with your teacher in BH. (You may 
want to check out some options at our website below.)

bivraxot (with blessings)
le-shavua` tov (for a good week),

Randall Buth, PhD
Director, Biblical Language Center
and Lecturer, Biblical Hebrew
Rothberg International School
Hebrew University

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