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