[b-hebrew] organic language learning

Deborah Millier deborahmillier at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 24 23:35:57 EDT 2003

S. Yadav wrote:

> Does the inability of a 
> scholar to interact with 
> the living tradition 
> invalidate his contribution 
> to the study of its 
> classical predecessor?  
> If so, why?  

Well,...I wouldn't say "invalidate[s]."  But *limits*,
yes.  And what I mean to promote is a more organic
approach to learning and teaching *biblical*
Hebrew--where the language is heard and spoken with
understanding BEFORE the class ever turns to reading
and writing.  You know, the way a native language is
learned in the home.  After a significant foundation
of true interaction in the language, then it might be
safe to begin analysis with its own set of
meta-linguistic vocabulary and concepts to learn.  On
top of the Hebrew.

> precisely which points of 
> neglect have the tendency 
> toward errors in judgment 
> regarding a linguistically 
> adequate description of 
> classical Hebrew?

Sameer, are we more interested in
"descri[bing]...classical Hebrew" or in actually
understanding it.  Then (afterward) perhaps describing
it.  I am aware that there is insight to be gained
from an outsider view of a language.  God knows that
when I taught Chinese (and other) students ESL, their
analysis of grammar and etymology was often superior
to mine.  But none could say that they *knew* English
better than me.

I think experience in other languages shows us that a
person needs to "sit" in a language and "ingest" it;
let it become a part of him/her for a while.  I used
to go to a couple of Jerusalem parks and simply listen
to the tones of modern Hebrew around me.  That way I
learned vocabulary and grammar in context.  I engaged
my mind, but also I sort of "felt" the language. 
Before long I found myself chatting with the kids who
were playing with my kids.  They were more gracious
when I made mistakes, plus they would patiently work
with me in their own tongue without changing to
English if and when conversation lagged.

This is true of modern Hebrew.  Why can't something
similar happen with biblical Hebrew?  Randall Buth's
approach works on this premise.


--Michael Millier

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