We are very excited to report that we have just finished a draft of our new biblical Hebrew textbook:
Biblical Hebrew: An Illustrated Introduction.
Why, you might be asking, have we written a second Hebrew textbook? The answer has to do with pedagogy
Our first textbook, Biblical Hebrew: A Student Grammar (which has its own page above and here and has been positively reviewed here), is in the mold of the grammar-translation model of language learning. That is, after each lesson, the exercises focus on producing a few forms (such as inflected verb) and then translating examples taken from the biblical text. This model of teaching and learning biblical Hebrew—indeed, all ancient languages—is the overwhelmingly dominant approach. Now, for some students this approach works very well; for more students, this approach to language learning results in PHSD (‘post Hebrew stress disorder’). Our own teaching experience confirms that the following description reflects many students’ assessment: “Grammar translation method: A dull, dry, and ineffective teaching method.”
This second, new textbook takes cues from the communicative approach to language teaching/learning, which stresses meaningful communicative over grammatical structure, that is, “use” over “usage”. And yet, “using” an ancient language is significantly limited and bound to knowledge of “usage.” Moreover, the typical student of biblical Hebrew studies the language not to use it but to read the Bible (i.e., to understand how the biblical authors used it). Thus, this textbook bridges two (if not more) models of language learning in our quest to take advantage of the various results of applied Second Language Acquisition research while maintaining what we call a philological realism—no-longer-spoken languages simply cannot be learned in the same ways that spoken languages can.
To that end, we have reorganized the presentation of language concepts and devised entirely new exercises (for a fuller explanation, see the preface, for which a link has been given below). The exercises combine a visual (hence the “illustrated”) component with recognition and production. What is learned in the context of the illustrated biblical texts is reinforced through cycles, whereby the same pericopes are revisited, with each cycle increasing in difficulty.
And for those who may be wondering, the grammar description is essentially unchanged from our first textbook, except for pedagogically motivated changes of nomenclature (e.g., we use the Hebrew terms דגשׁ קל and דגשׁ חזק instead of the Latinate terms dagesh forte and dagesh lene).
Below are links to the frontmatter (title page, preface, and table of contents) and a sample from the “readings” (the illustrated exercises).
An instructor’s manual includes both answer keys to the Readings and Lessons exercises and running comments that provide context or helpful ‘heads-up’ hints.
Audio files also provide students with the texts of the Readings in mp3 format.
If any Biblical Hebrew instructors who happen across this post are interested in looking over the materials or even joining the group of instructors who are using it this year, please contact us. We will then point you to our online instructor forum where you can download the materials and interact with the other instructors.