Learning a foreign language without building skills
I want to admit that I don’t know how learning languages other than Hebrew “works”, but I will be speaking confidently about how this “skills set” works for one who wants to learn Hebrew, Biblical or Modern. (Truthfully I suspect that the concept I’ll explain is applicable to all “foreign” language learning.) If you want to become a real Hebrew language champion you’re going to have to turn the dictionary into your best friend. Now I know it’s true that lots of people’s first exposure to learning Hebrew, and other “foreign” languages is in an improvisational realm. For example you travel, visit a new country, listen, and try to mimic the sounds that you’re hearing. On a deep level that’s not language learning.
I’m reminded of an associate of mine to whom I go to for professional services. Sadly, long ago he gave up on his ability to learn Hebrew. Yet when we meet and he speaks to me he’ll start every second or third sentence throwing in the Hebrew word, כן, yes. That use of a Hebrew word is likely not helping him…he’s not developing his skills set as he uses it. When exactly does he start using that “muscle” that I call his “skills level?” The answer is: when he has to confront the Hebrew word he just heard, and ask himself: what did I hear? how would I spell it? Is it a noun, verb, adjective (terms that I simply explain)? If it’s a verb, do I recognize its pattern?
Make the dictionary your friend
When we have the skills bank to help us answer the above questions, then we can start to use a dictionary, or any online application effectively. If we’re using those tools effectively we’re on our way to developing what I call “muscle memory,” and success is already happening.
In the upcoming blog I’ll talk about how what you have to do to effectively listen so as to create that ability to effectively learn Hebrew, and maybe other languages too!