Tag Archives: SLA


If you teach Biblical Hebrew in a seminary, university, or college, you might consider attending TALMID 2017, a workshop in communicative pedagogy for Biblical Hebrew. I would love to participate, but cannot for reasons of both cost and scheduling; however, I have previously attended two similar workshops, one by the CoHeLeT Project (with some of the same leadership team as TALMID) and one by the Biblical Language Center. Adopting communicative teaching/second language acquisition techniques has transformed my experience of teaching Biblical Hebrew, and all for the better (though not without growing pains). At any rate, I recommend the experience!

I’m a walking, talking bundle of irony

Me and others participating in the BLC Hebrew Fluency Workshop in Fresno, July 2013Many 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.