Facilitating L2 Input in Biblical Hebrew Pedagogy

The gradual implementation of the latest findings of second language acquisition into biblical language instruction in seminaries and other institutions has only been a relatively recent phenomenon. A potential growth area is the use of strategies that maximize the activation of the listening faculty in language learning. This is significant in part because it bridges the currently growing divide between competing pedagogical approaches to the biblical languages. The traditional approach, commonly called grammar-translation, is now faced with a relative newcomer to biblical language pedagogy, the so-called living language approach. Advocates of the new method have on their side recent findings in second language acquisition, as well as the generally acknowledged poor success rate of students in traditional programs as measured by long-term language retention and use. On the other hand, the living language approach is frequently criticized as being generally unrealistic and impractical in terms of actual pedagogical implementation.

However, since improving listening is an outcome that is arguably desireable to all teachers of biblical Hebrew, this paper will draw attention to several options are now becoming widely available that have the potential to significantly advance student success rates. These include an increased emphasis on highly interactive listening, made possible by various digital platforms. They also include the use of freely available audio Bible recordings. Such recordings have only recently become readily accessible and hold promise for students of the biblical languages. Biblical Hebrew is especially well-suited to this approach, given the relatively high degree of linguistic concord between it and modern Hebrew, as well as the pervasiveness of modern Hebrew pronunciation in traditional language instruction. When implemented with thought and care, the use of these audio tools offers a comparatively straightforward way to introduce a large amount of comprehensible input for students of biblical Hebrew. 

2 thoughts on “Facilitating L2 Input in Biblical Hebrew Pedagogy”

  1. I would attend this paper,
    I would attend this paper, even though I am initially skeptical of approaches like this one, unless it supplements the more traditional approach rather than replacing it.

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  2. Should generate discussion
    Knowing Kaspars as a colleague, I know that he is asking questions about best practices pedagogically (though I haven’t discussed this particular proposal with him). I think that this paper has potential to generate good discussion among ETS attendees who may be interested in SLA approaches, but prefer the majority of their instruction to be grammar-translation. I don’t think that listening alone will satisfy SLA approaches, but it could be a step in a good direction for those who are interested in adding those elements to their traditional pedagogy.

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