Monday, January 14, 2013

Greek & Hebrew Pedagogy: Speaking to Read

As a way of getting mentally prepared to begin the new semester, I went back and re-read a couple blog posts I had highlighted from last year about the importance of a living language approach to learning Greek and Hebrew:

First, Daniel Streett summarizes and reflects on a presentation that Brian Schultz gave at SBL:
All true reading entails this conversion of the written word into virtual sound. Thus, in a sense, reading is hearing. ... [I]f your goal is to fluently read Ancient Greek or Hebrew you have to learn to speak and hear it. There are no shortcuts. We’re not doing this so that we can one day order non-foamy lattes (or orange mocha frappuccinos) in Greek; our ultimate goal is to read these languages fluently, for pleasure, with understanding, and without the intrusion of English. Speaking ancient Greek is a means to an end; the end is authentic reading
Here is an excerpt from Daniel Streett's own SBL presentation on "setting the bar at fluency" (here and here):
My proposal, which I have shared with this group many times over the past several years, is fairly simple: stop treating Greek and Hebrew as dead languages. Aim for nothing less than internalization, fluency, or communicative proficiency. Teach in such a way that students are immersed in the language and begin to connect the language directly to things and experiences, so that they begin to think in Greek or Hebrew....In conclusion, I think that for too long, we have contented ourselves with teaching about Greek, rather than teaching Greek, with translating rather than truly reading, with analyzing rather than understanding and enjoying. 
And here is Robert Holmstedt, co-author of the Biblical Hebrew textbook I use:
Above all, my teaching and learning experiences led me conclude that successfully engaging a higher percentage of students required a more active approach to the ancient language learning process. Traditional outcomes are typically passive in the sense that they stress only the recognition component of language use and minimize, if not omit, the production component. Such outcomes stress parsing, analysis, lexicon, and place a priority on translation, typically a minimal component of modern language learning environments, in which it used decreasingly, which stands in direct contrast to the increasing use of translation in intermediate and advanced levels of ancient language learning. Besides the deadening boredom of the traditional curriculum—both for student and teacher!—it only makes pedagogical sense to engage as many of the physical senses as possible, in the recognition that the more parts of the brain the student is required to activate in class, the more likely comprehension and retention will follow. (Full version here)

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