Learning Biblical Hebrew can be frustrating sometimes, especially to those who have previously only learned living languages. Having native speakers to whom you can ask questions might be the most advantageous resource when learning a language. Unfortunately, we do not have native speakers with Biblical Hebrew. We can still, however, use modern language learning to help guide our Biblical Hebrew learning. 

There are four main language skills that contribute to language learning: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The more we practice these four skills in Hebrew the greater our facility with Hebrew will grow. Learning a language well involves learning and honing all four of these skills. Yes, you could learn to read the Hebrew Bible without using all of these skills, but you will get the most out of the text when you approach it from multiple avenues. The more tools in the toolkit, the easier the work. It is also worth noting that none of these skills can be neatly divided into their own category. They all feed into and flow out of each other.

The receptive language learning skills are listening and reading. Receptive skills are the first step to learning a language. We have to first receive the language in some way before we can ever learn how to produce it. Listening engages our aural skills of differentiating sounds and various cadences in a language. There are plenty of ways to grow these skill in Biblical Hebrew. Some resources for listening practice include: audio Bibles (https://haktuvim.co.il/en/study), group reading, and music. There are some folks (like Miqedem) who have taken the text of the Hebrew Bible and set it to modern music. 

The other key receptive skill is reading. The main way in which we engage the Hebrew Bible is through reading the text. Many times, reading the Hebrew Bible means adjusting to a steep learning curve, but more and more resources are emerging to help people more readily access Biblical Hebrew. Resources like readers editions, graded readers, and illustrated readers have contributed to aiding students when reading the Tanach (GlossaHouse is constantly releasing these illustrated readers, the most recent of which is an illustrated reader of the Psalms). Reading aloud will not only reinforce reading skills, but also contributes to speaking and listening skills. When reading aloud, we are reinforcing the the connection between sound and letter.  Listening and reading are just two of the necessary skills for language proficiency, and they are mainly devoted to how we take in the language.

Also vital to language learning are the productive language skills of speaking and writing. Productive language skills are important because they allow us to see how well we can apply the grammatical and syntactical principles that have been taken in. Language production gives a metric for gauging how much someone understands. It can be used to point out areas of misunderstanding and incomprehension. Writing, specifically, adds physicality to your language learning. You have to go through the actual motions of writing. Writing is typically slower and more methodical than speaking, so it is great for focusing on fine points of grammar like conjugations and other morphological details. One way to practice writing Biblical Hebrew is to take a verse and write it out several times, paying close attention to the forms, and then to try and do so from an English translation or from memory. The details of spelling and syntax are clearer when you have to recall and reproduce them. 

Speaking, our other productive skill language skill, is usually done with a person and it tends to happen quicker. The speed at which a conversation happens does not lend itself to the careful and methodical processing that writing can provide. It does, however, do wonders for helping us gauge how quickly someone is processing the language. The extemporaneous nature of speaking can help you see what sounds, vocabulary, sentence structures, and ideas you struggle to produce with ease. While not many people are speaking Biblical Hebrew, there are still ways to practice. You can find a partner who is also learning Biblical Hebrew and have conversations together. Also, you can study modern Hebrew, there are a lot of differences between the two languages, but modern Hebrew can still be beneficial for learning Biblical Hebrew (and vice versa) as long as you understand the differences (which you can read about here).

Finally, these skills are not exclusive for learning Biblical Hebrew, but it seems there is a tendency to focus on the receptive skills and not give as much attention to the productive skills when teaching classical languages. This comes at the cost of more holistically processing the language. The more you practice each skill the fuller your experience of the language and the Bible will be. I have tried to give resources and methods for practicing each skill in Biblical Hebrew, but I know they are not exhaustive. If you have any tips or resources for studying that you use, leave them in a comment below.

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