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Posts Tagged ‘language learning’

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Hebrew Scriptures, reading the Hebrew and English in parallel so as to read with understanding — I described my process previously in my article “How I’m Learning to Read Biblical Hebrew.”

Years ago when I started reading the Bible (online access to the Bible here), I found it a real chore to get through books two through five of the Pentateuch — Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy —  because of the focus on the details of the Law and the Israelite genealogy, and especially the repetitiveness of the text.

But now that I’m using that text to learn the original language, I’m finding that the repetitiveness is a learning aid. For example, I’m now reading Numbers 7, in which chieftains of each of the 12 tribes bring in one-by-one the same offering of dishes and flour and bulls and rams and so on. The repetition in the text is actually helping me to learn the Hebrew words for these things. And rather than boring me, that repetition is helping me to engage more deeply with the text.

I don’t know whether other students have had the same experience, and I have no idea whether the text was structured that way partly on purpose. But I can say that it’s working out that way for me.

ARK — 26 August 2014

 

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Over the past year and a half, I’ve been learning to read Biblical Hebrew. I should say that I don’t think anyone has to learn the original languages to benefit from the Scriptures — nearly everyone in the world now has the Bible available in his or her own language, either the whole Bible or part of it. A good translation, especially one that includes the Divine Name, should be sufficient for a sincere person to understand the written Word.

However, in connection with the Edhai project, I wanted to have a good feel for how people spoke in Bible times. While eventually Akkadian, Aramaic, and Greek will no doubt be valuable, I thought Biblical Hebrew would be a good place to start.

To learn the language, I’ve been using a similar process that I used some years ago to learn to read Spanish. My basic process is to first read the passage in English, then read the same passage in the new language, but taking the time to analyze the passage until I can actually read it out loud with understanding.

Biblical Hebrew presents some special problems that I didn’t have with Spanish — that is, the alphabet and the vowel points. I have some linguistic training, which has helped me to figure out the pronunciation of the consonants and vowels.

However, I found that I needed to add some other aids beyond a Hebrew Bible. By far the most valuable resource has been the superb Interlinear Scripture Analyzer (ISA) software available free from Scripture 4 All. The application provides a literal word-by-word interlinear translation, as you can see from the sample shown here.

 

ISA software screen shot

 

As you can see, in the Hebrew text and in the interlinear translation, the authors have faithfully included God’s name; they have used the common formulation “Yahweh” in their English interlinear rendering.

ISA is the most important additional tool I’m using for my project, but I’ve also found it useful to listen to the Hebrew Audio Bible available from the Academy of Ancient Languages. I also have a Hebrew primer, which has been useful for understanding grammar; a Hebrew lexicon that I use occasionally to research words, and a set of flash cards from Zondervan to help build vocabulary.

At first, I found I had to struggle for 10 or 15 minutes just to puzzle out a single word. However, now in that same amount of time I can read seven or eight verses with understanding. In some cases, I don’t even need anymore to refer to the interlinear.

I’m now up to Exodus 19 in this exciting Bible reading project.

ARK — 20 March 2012

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