Language Laws (memorization)

Jane Harper jharper at
Thu Dec 19 14:51:16 EST 2002

At 14:31 12/19/2002, Ken Penner wrote:
>I've been mostly content to stay out of the thread about the best way to
>learn Biblical Hebrew, but the repeated claim that memorization is an
>impediment to learning a language needs a counterpoint.
>I will address only the question of memorizing vocabulary, not
>Vocabulary acquisition does not have to be time-consuming or tedious.

As someone who is *not* an academic in Biblical languages and therefore 
does not use the vocabulary every day, I feel this is a bit 
misleading.  And as someone *with* academic preparation in the neuroscience 
of memory and its mechanisms,  I feel the same way.

For both reasons, I suggest the following:  for those of us who don't read 
Biblical Hebrew every day, rote initial memorization of facts (whether 
words or rules) is not the issue.  Remote recall is.  And the "flash card" 
approach just doesn't work in that case, unless you spend a sizeable amount 
of time every day doing it.  We fight the same battle in teaching medical 
students: they have a huge potload of isolated pieces of information to 
memorize and they forget it as soon as they've been tested.

So if the target audience is, as the very beginning of this thread 
suggested (if I remember correctly), people who don't plan daily use of the 
language, I suggest that vocabulary acquisition *is* time-consuming *and* 
tedious -- and so is vocabulary retention.  And it gets worse as we age, 
for many, so if your intended student is over 40 or so, more repetition is 

My totally anecdotal experience has been that the greatest blessing in 
using the original languages is a computer program, yes: but one that 
parses and translates when you right-click on the word.  That way if I'm 
confused about the usage I can look it up!

Jane Harper

All sanity depends on this:  that it should be a delight to feel heat 
strike the skin, a delight to stand upright, knowing the bones are moving 
easily under the flesh. -- Doris Lessing

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list