"Non-Academic" Original Languages?

Andy Warren andy_warren at sil.org
Thu Dec 19 03:16:23 EST 2002


I have attended Randy's course in Israel and can most strongly recommend it.

I came with a very traditional background (Oxford, Goettingen, Cambridge),
had done a PhD on the BH verbal system (Cambridge) and was then involved in
training rural African Bible translators (Ghana). I had tried the more
traditional introductions to BH, and then also Dobson (which I still quite
like), and was sent by my organisation to find out more about Randy's
course.

What I found was a course incomparably better than any I had seen before
(especially when taught by Randy and team in situ), scarcely any problem
with the often-repeated issue of ModH/BH mixing, and a major challenge to my
own fluency in BH!

The issue, Randy is keen to stress, is not one of the use of modern Hebrew,
nor one of orality, but one of competence and fluency in the language. Like
many people doing post-doctoral research in BH, I am not able to read
mediaeval grammarians nor modern Hebrew articles with any kind of fluency.
This is an absurd situation, akin, as Randy says, to a Chaucer or
Shakespeare scholar not being able to read modern English. (At the end of my
BA in French and German, I had an incomparably higher level of fluency in
those languages than I had in BH upon finishing my PhD!) At the Home for
Bible Translators, however, I met African Bible translators with a much less
privileged educational background than my own, who after one year of
teaching by Randy & co. in Israel had a greater facility with BH than me! Of
course that's not to say that they had the same level of
technical/critical/analytical skills, nor that they were in a position to
write a PhD. But they had a basis for further work as translators and as
scholars which I should have had many years ago - it would have saved me
months of slog during my PhD and made it a much more enjoyable experience!

The concern about the influence of modern Hebrew is legitimate, just as that
about the influence of modern English on a Japanese Chaucer and Shakespeare
scholar who's looking at the use of the forms 'you' and 'thou' (the latter
used to be informal, but is today used [rarely, in churches] as formal). But
it seems to me absurd to suggest that this makes learning modern Hebrew a
hindrance to reading the HB any more than is learning modern English a
hindrance to reading Chaucer or Shakespeare! As for the verbal system, I
argued in my PhD for yiqtol as modal (following Joosten et al.), only
AFTERWARDS discovering the considerable extent to which this agrees with
modern Hebrew usage! So in my view at least (I'm not speaking for Randy,
whose view of the BHVS is slightly different from mine), modern Hebrew is
much less misleading than is commonly thought!

Visit Randy's website at: www.biblicalulpan.org

(And no, he's not paying me! :-) )

Andy Warren
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