On Speaking and Scholarship

16 March 2012 by Randall Buth

Students at our ulpans often ask about the relationship between speaking a language and scholarship.

The question arises because most in the related academic fields do not currently advocate or practice speaking the language (and we are all greatful for the generations of scholarship in both Biblical Studies and Classics), yet we at BLC and many others claim that fluent speaking will improve reading.

Frequently and repeatedly I’ve told students at our ulpans:
Speaking English will NOT make you a Shakespeare scholar. However, any Shakespeare scholar would be a better Shakespeare scholar than they otherwise would be –if they could speak English fluently.
It’s common sense. The same holds for Greek and Hebrew. Scholarship and analysis is quite different from speaking a language, they are not even comparable, yet there is every reason to speak a language if interested in a literature or in its scholarship. I suspect that a whole generation of scholars who actively spoke the language of their literature would profoundly affect its scholarship, even though most broad basics may not change. Previous generations have laid many solid foundations.

And this generation is going to need to work hard if we want to implement the above. There is a long long way to go, and we will arrive sooner as more would join to help. The next generation will emerge out of this generation’s work.

Categories: ancient Greek, ancient language acquisition, Biblical Hebrew, biblical language fluency, Blog, Greek pedagogy, Hebrew as second language, Koine Greek, Living Koine, Reading biblical languages, second language acquisition

2 Responses to “On Speaking and Scholarship”

  1. Terry 4 May 2012 at 11:38 am (PERMALINK)

    Dear Randall,

    I will be teaching Biblical Hebrew next year, and I need a textbook. Any suggestions? I have Living Biblical Hebrew, but it is a bit pricey for intro level.

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  2. Randall Buth 4 May 2012 at 12:20 pm (PERMALINK)

    I would write to support@biblicallanguagecenter.com and ask about group rates. Living Biblical Hebrew is not just a textbook but is a private language lab for homework as well as independent study.

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