on 20 May 2007
When I first learned Hebrew, some years ago now, I used two different textbooks (Harper and Eaton). I now teach introductory Biblical Hebrew and for several years used the classic text by Weingreen. The advantages of Weingreen are its comprehensiveness, conciseness and copious exercises. But it also has some serious pedagogical weaknesses, as is only to be expected in a book last revised in 1959. For example, important concepts are sometimes explained too briefly and others not at all. I thought I would try a new approach and use Basics of Biblical Hebrew. I am glad I did. The book's emphasis on `diagnostics', rather than on rote learning of paradigms, might not appeal to purists. But the point is it works. By the end of one year of study the students had a much firmer grasp of the language and could explain verbal forms with greater confidence than I had experienced before. Without exception every student in the class, of whatever ability, rated the book as excellent. When I taught an advanced class to students who had used another textbook at introductory level, several bought Basics of Biblical Hebrew to clarify points only partly mastered before. All agreed that the book is a model of clarity. The accompanying workbook gives numerous graded exercises. The accompanying CD could be more user-friendly. But it's not essential. The textbook and workbook stand by themselves. For teachers, however, the numerous overheads on the CD are a tremendous help for teaching a group in class. If you're not of an evangelical disposition, some of the exegetical observations at the end of chapters might irritate you - but these can be skipped over entirely. So, the CD aside, this is a five star textbook.
on 11 March 2011
I began teaching myself Biblical Hebrew (BH) about six years ago using Weingreen which I think is excellent in a number of ways. Now, however, I'm at a theological college and I went through Pratico and Van Pelt in my first year. Where Weingreen is very concise, Pratico is comparably long-winded. But it is clear.
The logic of the layout is very good and helps you to grasp the whole system of BH grammar. I've tried to think of better ways of doing it, but this one makes the most sense to me. For example, the verb system is laid out as Qal perfect strong forms, then weak forms, then Imperfect strong, then imperfect weak, and onto Niphal through the system to Hithpael in this way.
The examples they use are from the Bible which is good because they get you straight into the text, but challenging because they may contain elements you have not yet been introduced to. Perhaps a mix would have been better.
Meeper's review seems a little silly, to be honest. It's no use comparing having learnt a European language with study like this. Studying a dead language has unique difficulties; you can't go to the place and have an immersive learning experience and attempt conversations in it even in the classroom. You're stuck with a large text and a culture which you can only read about. The only way in to a good, working knowledge of this kind of language is doing the hard work of learning grammar and syntax and being 'academic' about it. There simply isn't another way to gain facility in this language.
Other reviews have criticised the little sections at the end of chapters which offer comments on certain words or texts. One even declared them unevangelical! I cannot understand why he/she would say this. I found most of them very interesting and even devotional.
Anyway, I heartily recommend this grammar either for teaching or for teaching yourself. For anyone contemplating the latter, no grammar will make the task of learning a language, especially a dead one, easy. It is hard, sustained work and requires real commitment. It is absolutely do-able, but you have to be willing to keep going. The rewards are huge.
on 19 January 2007
If you are like me, and don't like lots of technical terms but want translations of what various persons etc in the noun, adverb, verb etc tables actually mean in English (of which there are very few), I am sorry to say this is not for you. I bought this and the workbook for a distance learning course and found them less than helpful. The CD that comes with it isn't that easy or intuitive to use either. In fact I haven't even used the workbook or CD that goes with it, and I really don't like the book at all, and avoid using it where possible to do my studies. If you like the sort of academic approach to languages with lots of linguistic terms that is rather cerebral rather than practical and down to earth, it might be ok for you. However if you are a person who say has learnt one European language, likes the current more practical learning style prevelant these days, and doesn't like the rather academic 1950 style of learning with copious linguistic jargonese, then don't bother with this book. It probably better for university students who are not distant learning rather than if you are trying to learn on your own, but even then I am not sure about it. In my opinion there are far better easier to understand and practical books out there to help you learn Hebrew.