The Biblical Language Center’s story begins in Africa where Dr. Randall Buth spent nearly 20 years working in Bible translation. As a consultant to translator teams he was responsible to find training programs that would equip the national translators with a working knowledge of biblical languages. However, he quickly noticed that even two to four years of studies at acclaimed schools did not come close to what would have been accomplished in other languages. He compared it to what would happen if someone spent two years working in a special program in “Goethe Studies[German]” or “Cervantes Studies [Spanish]”. At a minimum, fulltime students would be able to pick up a text in the language and read comfortably with understanding. Yet this was not happening with biblical languages. Knowing the abilities of the nationals, who themselves normally spoke 3-5 languages or more, Dr. Buth started asking questions. What is holding back language learning at our Biblical Studies programs? What needs to change? How do humans learn languages?
His background in linguistics led him to the field of Second Language Acquisition, which studies how humans learn languages that are not their mother tongue. He found that the techniques identified by leading researchers as most effective and successful revolved around getting students to use the language and involved creating an immersion-like experience in the classroom. Ironically, these very techniques that distinguished successful Spanish or German classrooms were simply non-existent when it came to the biblical language classroom and textbooks.
He started asking colleagues and institutions if there was anyone developing an immersion approach to the study of biblical languages. Although many echoed the need for such a program, none were willing to take on the challenge. But a few suggested he was the man for the job. So in 1996, he moved to Israel to begin developing curriculum and classroom pedagogy that would combine proven techniques of second language acquisition to the learning of biblical languages.
It was there in Israel that the Living Biblical Languages method was born. Dr. Buth’s classrooms, his church, even own living room became a language laboratory, as he tested and developed new materials. The results were immediately rewarding, and a new vision was born.