Contrasting methodologies

Last week I had to give a talk to my colleagues, the faculty of the School of Humanities, Religion and Social Sciences at Fresno Pacific University.  I chose to speak on the importance of teaching the biblical languages and why I teach biblical Hebrew differently than the traditional way.  In order to help me, I quickly made up this chart to help them understand how the conclusions of the field of Second Language Acquisition about best practices in teaching languages are different than the traditional methods of teaching the biblical languages.  I put it in layman’s terms, so that everyone, even outside of the university and seminary context, could understand it.   That is why I defined “best practices” as those that emulate as much as possible how a toddler learns its mother tongue.

I would like to continue working on this chart to refine it, and would therefore appreciate any feedback you could give me on how I can improve it.

Best Practices
(How a child learns its mother tongue)
Traditional Method
  • Not dependent upon a prior learned language
  • Dependently entirely on a different language for instruction
  • Be in a context of real, live communication
  • Almost no real communication in the language
  • Needs massive amounts of input in the language
  • Virtually no input in the language; only small short texts
  • Hearing and understanding meaning before having the ability to speak
  • Little to no hearing & speaking, mainly just reading
  • Meaning is associated with physical action
  • No physical action
  • Having fun in the process
  • Little fun, high stress
  • Learning to speak in response to real situations that require real communication
  • No learning to speak
  • Be allowed to make hundreds and thousands of mistakes
  • Mistakes are feared and punished
  • Learning to read after having learned to talk
  • Reading is the first skill learned
  • Learning to write after one can already speak
  • Writing is the second skill learned
  • Learning grammar rules after one has fluency
  • Grammar is taught as a conduit to fluency

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  1. Marcus Leman November 1, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Hi Brian,

    This is a helpful start at contrasting the two. Here a few more suggestions I might make from my ESL background and starting to practice teaching biblical Hebrew communicatively: (take them or leave them 🙂

    -#4 on your list might include (via translation) as a parenthetical comment on the traditional side since the “reading” is of a wholly different character than what reading will eventually take place for those who acquire the language.

    -Appeals to all learning styles vs. Appeals to analytical learners

    -Promotes learning outside the classroom vs. Relegates learning to one context

    -Maximizes class time spent in the language vs. Confines the amount of language covered in a class period

  2. Brian Schultz November 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you Marcus for your comments. You are right that I should highlight the fact that in #4, most of the reading is not really reading, but “very quick translation.” As you rightly point out, it is of a very different nature than the kind of reading one does in a language one has internalized. Your other comments are as equally valid, though I would like to include them in a slightly different list. In this chart, I was trying to list characteristics of the learning process, more the “how” of the way a child learns its mother tongue versus that which typically takes place in an ancient language classroom. As I read your last three points, they seem to me to be describing some advantages of Communicative Language Teaching. (About your point that it appeals to all learning styles, let me highlight an earlier post I wrote, in case you had not yet noticed or read it.) Thanks for sharing, and all the best as you start practicing to teach BH communicatively. Do keep me posted on how your efforts go.

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