Language is Communication

A couple quick anecdotes.

Last year I interviewed a few of my students to get their thoughts about my biblical Hebrew course taught using Communicative Language Teaching.  The one student had the following comment:

Learning Hebrew has been easier, so far as to say that I don’t translate it.  Like when I was learning French, I would translate it from French into English to be able to form a sentence.  But now in Hebrew, I kind of just do it all directly in Hebrew, [be]cause I don’t know the English.

(For the record, her mother tongue is English.)  This is the difference between knowing about a language and internalizing the language.  In the latter, there is a communicative process happening in the language (=biblical Hebrew) itself, without the intermediary of one’s mother tongue.

And then this past week, I was helping another one of my first semester Hebrew students with his homework, and at some point to get him to understand what I was trying to explain, I asked him: “?אָכַלְתָּ [Did you eat?].”  And he said in response: “?אָכַלְתָּ [Did you eat?] That means… Oh yes, it means !אָכַלְתִּי [I ate]”  Such a beautiful example of how the language was working in his head as a communicative process, not as a translation process.  His first response was not to find the English equivalent to my question to be able to figure out the correct response in Hebrew.  Rather, his natural response was to communicate in the language, before translating it.

After all, language is all about communicating.

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