As a language, Hebrew is often marginalized. Everyone seems intent on teaching their kids Latin or Classical Greek so they can read Virgil and Aristotle, and because there's a not-quite-accurate idea that English has something to do with Latin. Hebrew is often seen as too hard, too foreign, or just plain not important.
But for Christians, Biblical Hebrew is one of the most important languages in the world, ever. Two-thirds of the Bible is written in it, and the writers of the New Testament spoke it, and the nation of Israel was for centuries synonymous with the people of God. It would be going too far to say that learning Latin is worthless, but surely Hebrew is just as important (if not more).
Kim McKay and the folks at Alef Press agree, and that's why they've produced this series of texts and supplements designed to give elementary through high school students a good grasp of Biblical Hebrew with as little headache as possible. These programs are accessible, intuitive, and ready-to-use in a classroom, independent, or co-op learning situation.
How Do These Work?
Students begin withBiblical Hebrew: A Homeschool Primer, which consists of a student worktext with answer key, a CD with songs in Hebrew, and a DVD lesson supplement. Designed for grades 4-10, the program is student-directed, and introduces the alphabet, how to write the Hebrew letters in script and block form, and reading and pronunciation.
The worktext combines text to read and exercises; the answer key has limited teacher's notes and answers to all exercises. The CD includes several traditional songs in Hebrew (the Shemah, the Song of Moses, etc.); students copy the words in the worktext. The DVDs contain short lessons which provide historical and cultural context concerning ancient Israel and Mesopotamia.
After completion ofBiblical Hebrew: A Homeschool Primer, students practice their new skills inThe Jonah Copybook, which is a workbook containing the complete book of Jonah in both Hebrew and English, with space between for students to either practice writing the Hebrew letters or write their own translation, depending on their ability.
Next comesBiblical Hebrew 2, a high school course made up of a workbook with answer key and a student textbook. Again, kids work at their own pace, learning Hebrew through a fast-paced, rigorous grammar-based approach. Students read from the textbook, then work the exercises in the workbook.
By the end ofBiblical Hebrew 2, students should be able to read the Hebrew Bible and do some translation work, though they'll need to pursue further studies if they hope to become proficient. The program should take one and a half school years to complete as there are 45 chapters with five daily sections each.
Finally,Malachi: An Interlinear Hebrew Translation Workbook presents advanced students another chance to translate an Old Testament book, though beginners can also use it to get a feel for syntax, grammar, and translation. One use for this worktext could be as a reward for students who make it through the other Alef Press materials.
Our Honest Opinion
There aren't a lot of books teaching Biblical Hebrew to young students, and the arrival of these from Kim McKay is very welcome, especially since she takes a no-nonsense approach to language instruction. If you want frills, games, and busywork you'll have to look elsewhere, but if you want your kids to learn Hebrew look no further.
If there's a downside to these books it's the relative lack of teacher materials (other than answer keys). However, literally all that students need to know is included in the student texts, and since the course is designed to be student-directed, teacher extras would be more or less superfluous. Good for elementary to adult students, we highly recommend all these products.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviewshere.
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