Many years ago, during my undergraduate days, a professor tried to teach me Spanish using Second Language Acquisition techniques. This particular professor was an expert in this type of pedagogy, and he regularly used it to help non-American students attending our university acquire (additional) proficiency with English. However, I resisted his guidance mightily. I had taken first-year Spanish with a professor who gave us more direct grammar instruction than my would-be second-year professor, and I had become accustomed to his style. In fact, I was so unable to appreciate what my second-year professor was trying to do that I bailed on the course and switched into another section with a teacher whose style was more like my first-year professor’s style.
Fast-forward almost 25 years. I have spent the last week at a Biblical Hebrew Instructors Fluency Workshop practicing and enhancing my ability to converse in Biblical Hebrew and to teach Biblical Hebrew using Total Physical Response (TPR) and Teaching Reading through Proficiency and Storytelling (TPRS) practices. For quite a long time now, Biblical Hebrew has usually been taught using a “grammar-translation” method, wherein professors teach students a bunch of grammar rules and then ask them to apply that knowledge by translating biblical texts. For the last few iterations of my Hebrew course (which rolls around once every two years), I have been trying to shift more and more toward teaching Biblical Hebrew using a variety of “communicative” methods. In other words, I want to teach my students to communicate in Biblical Hebrew, which will in turn allow them to read and understand biblical texts.
So I’ve come to believe in and practice essentially the same pedagogical style that I rejected as a student. I wish I’d had better sense back then, and had received the opportunity that was offered to me.
At the Biblical Hebrew Instructors Fluency Workshop that I’m currently attending, participants customarily choose Biblical Hebrew names to use during the sessions. One suggestion given during the orientation dinner was to choose a name that begins with the same sound as your given name. I took that suggestion a little bit further and chose the name כּוֹרֶשׁ (Koresh), which has consonant sounds relatively close to Chris. It’s possible that you’ve only heard the name Koresh in connection with cult leader David Koresh, of “Waco standoff” fame. Koresh is actually the Biblical Hebrew pronunciation of the name of the Persian king we call in English “Cyrus the Great.” Isaiah 45:1 famously refers to Cyrus as God’s “anointed one,” or messiah. So I guess that choosing the name Koresh could invite charges of messianic delusions.
However, there’s a quasi-wordplay that might mitigate such charges. The Greek word equivalent to “messiah” is Χριστός (Christos), which comes across into English as “Christ.” My given name, Christopher, derives from a compound of Χριστός and the Greek word φέρω (ferō), which means “I bear, I carry.” Therefore my name means something like “one who carries the messiah.” The legend of St. Christopher plays on this sense of the name with its story of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child across a dangerous river. So given that plus the phonological coincidence of “Chris” and Koresh, I think maybe my choice could be considered a kind of pun rather than mere grandiosity.
The Biblical Language Center’s first (annual?) Biblical Hebrew Instructors Fluency Workshop begins tomorrow in Fresno, California.
Teaching Hebrew in Hebrew at the rate of natural speech offers advantages in efficiency, attainment levels, and broader student success throughout the various stages of language learning. This workshop is designed to help Hebrew teachers bridge the gap between traditional Biblical Hebrew training and immersion methodologies.
Second Language Acquisition studies have shown that speaking a language is a catalyst for truly internalizing a language. In addition to maximizing internalization, the workshop will also work on skills necessary for effectively applying Communicative Language Teaching methods to the classroom. The workshop will be run “immersion” style, with the entire day, 8:45 AM to 5:00 PM, including lunch, taking place in Biblical Hebrew.
If any Higgaion readers are attending the workshop, then I look forward to seeing you there tomorrow evening!
As for the titular question, Fresno is the Spanish name for the ash tree, which in (Modern) Hebrew is מֵילָה. But I’m guessing that a Californian speaking Hebrew would still probably just call the city פְרֶסְנוֹ.