Biblical Language Teaching

If you need to learn Biblical languages and have special learning needs or simply want to work with someone who knows how to think creatively when it comes to teaching, let’s talk.

I specialize in assisting people with diverse learning needs. My strengths include attention to students’ individual differences, familiarity with language learning processes, and ability to teach students to understand differences in word order and learn to think through the processes necessary to translate a passage into clear wording.

My students have included both those who were sighted and blind. I co-presented a paper with Lauren Tuchman at the 2011 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature entitled “Using Technology to meet the Needs of Biblical Language Scholars Who Are Blind.” I maintain a repository of information regarding resources and techniques for empowering scholars who are blind to succeed in biblical language programs at http://www.night-light.org.

My university credit courses are offered at at Anderson University. If you wish to study with me for university credit, please contact AU and ask for information about online biblical language courses.

If you do not need university credit and would like to arrange a private study rate, please email me. If you’re still thinking about whether you want to jump in, please read on.

My Personal Journey

My interest in teaching diverse learners comes from the fact that I myself am a diverse learner. I am blind; and my journey to being able to teach Hebrew was long and winding. During my childhood, braille Bibles were very expensive. I did not own a complete braille Bible until I was almost 30 years old. This made Bible study very difficult for me.

Today, the situation is much different. I not only have an English Bible; but I can access any version of the Bible via digital resources. I have gone to seminary, studied Hebrew and Greek, and now teach the Bible in its original languages!

Q&A

If you want to learn Biblical languages, don’t let anything hold you back! Here are some common questions and answers.

When deciding whether to take on the task of learning a new language, it is helpful to think about the reasons why you want to study it. I can talk to you a lot about why other people study it–and I am quite willing to do that. I do want to encourage you to think most about why you yourself want to study it … and there is nothing wrong with saying that you simply have a desire to learn it. If you are willing to commit a lot of time for this reason, then that is all you need to know. This is the most good and faithful reason to study Hebrew. Most people do not feel it, and that is ok.

Hebrew is the original language of the people who lived in ancient Biblical times. In Jesus’ time there was no “Old Testament” or “New Testament”. In fact, it is possible that Jesus read and spoke Hebrew. We do know that he spoke its sister language, Aramaic. There are many things in the New Testament that are quoted from the “Hebrew Bible,” as many people call it; and knowledge of Hebrew can help us to better understand the culture of the Jewish believers who followed Jesus and provided the foundation for the early Church.

Knowledge of Hebrew helps us to interpret the “Old Testament,” aka the Hebrew Bible, for our own understanding. The Hebrew Bible is a part of our heritage. Treating it as something that has been superceded by the New Testament is a disservice to our history. Jesus lived in faithfulness and in tension with it at the same time; and so must we.

Learning Hebrew also helps us to be better communicators in any language we use. As we come to understand the reasons for word usage and the relationships of language concepts, we become better speakers and writers in all languages.

The question, perhaps, is not “Should you learn Hebrew?” but “Are you ready and willing to invest time and energy?”

Can I Learn Hebrew if I am Blind?

No question tears at my soul quite like this one; for I have asked it myself. If I could take back the many years that I thought the answer was “no” and give myself the joy of reading, I would. Since I can’t, I devote the rest of my life to passing the joy on in the hope that perhaps some others will not spend so much time agonizing over this question.

The answer is not “no” but a question. Where there are more questions, there are always possibilities. The answer is, “What are your resources, and then what do we need to do to make this work?” I have known people who learned the Hebrew language orally, with the help of sighted readers. I have known people who learned Hebrew by inventing systems to represent the letters because they did not know there was a Hebrew braille system. I have known people who learned Hebrew using braille on technology that did not display all of the characters. And I have known people who learned it using top-of-the-line systems that worked perfectly.

The moral here is that there is no limit if you are the one who wants to learn Hebrew. When barriers stand before you, you must determine in your heart that this is part of your calling from God and nothing shall stand in your way. It is a very different way to think than what sighted people think about their courses. You will do no less than the equivalent of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. If he had given up at the first dry riverbed, there would have been no Promised Land!

If you wish to learn Hebrew and you are blind, please contact me and let’s talk about what you need in order to be confident and move ahead. I have walked the road before you, and you are not alone.

Can I Learn Hebrew if I Have a Learning Disability?

My experience prior to teaching Hebrew was with teaching Greek; and we had students in Greek who had learning disabilities. They did well and took second-year Greek. I see no reason why a person with a learning disability could not study Hebrew and succeed, perhaps with some innovative teaching techniques along the way.

I cannot predict how your learning disability would affect your learning process. I like to think positively and look for solutions rather than to think that a disability would inhibit a person from learning language.

I encourage students to communicate with me openly about how they are experiencing the language learning process. This way, if something needs to be modified along the way, it can be done. Success in language learning is a process that depends highly on interaction between the learner and the professor. I can and will give to you what you need to the degree that I am able. I depend on you to help me to understand your needs. Additionally, if you are studying with me for credit through AU, please register with the Kissinger Learning Center so that your requests for accommodations can be properly documented.

What If I Tried Learning Hebrew Before and Failed?

If you have tried learning Hebrew in the past, and you are now visiting this page, I first want to say to you that I am thrilled and proud of you for not giving up completely! If there is some desire left inside you to learn, then let it sink in for a momnet and give yourself permission to be comfortable with it. There are many reasons why a person may not do well in a Hebrew course the first time. I don’t want to speculate on yours since I was not there. There are several methods of teaching Hebrew, and the same one doesn’t work for every person. Sometimes stress or general life circumstances can get in the way, or personality clashes can make it hart to absorb information. Whatever happened the first time around, there is no shame in trying again. In my Hebrew class, everyone starts with a clean slate. I encourage students to talk with me if something isn’t working so that we can work together to figure out what does.

Shalom.

languages – Sarah Blake LaRose


Last feed update: Thursday July 27th, 2017 11:06:25 PM

biblical languages and scholars who are blind: state of technology

Saturday September 7th, 2013 04:01:44 PM Sarah Blake LaRose
Yesterday, I announced on Facebook that the Bartimaeus Alliance of the Blind has released a digital braille format version of Jacob Weingreen’s A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew. This, along with other digital braille files available on their site, may be an important breakthrough for people who are blind and who want to study Hebrew. […]

“since” vs. “because”

Friday February 17th, 2012 08:23:30 PM Sarah Blake LaRose
Greek words often have multiple meanings in English. So a clause may be translated either “If [blah blah blah]” or “since [blah blah blah]”. Of course, this distinction is very important when doing biblical translation. But I’m not translating right now. I’m just thinking about life… Think of the difference between saying, “if I am […]






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2 comments:

  1. Dear Sarah: We adopted our Chinese daughter 5 months ago. She is “legally blind” but can see a lot more than you describe for yourself, and for that we are thankful. Should she learn braile in case her sight lessens? YiLi is 8, and she is clever, very spiritual from the “get-go”, already loves Jesus, loves to sing, and has an incredible 24/7 sunny personality. We have been blessed big-time, and I hope we can introduce her to programs and concepts that can open up opportunities for her she never dreamed about before. She loves to read too. So, with your unique mix of talents and just who you are, would you venture an opinion on the direction we should start in for this first grader of ours? Surgically, our first Ped. Op. has said there is nothing to be done. We are considering going to Akron, but you must go there for a whole week, and right now we cannot afford the time and money right after the adoption. I have saved your site. We found you on the yahoo group.

  2. Hi, Traci. I think the system ate my reply, so I’ll try again. If it shows up twice, I guess you’ll get a double dose. :) I have been offline and apologize for the lengthy delay in response to your question. I am back online and you are welcome to continue correspondence if you like.

    I often recommend that children who can see print learn both print and braille. This allows them to have the maximum tools for literacy and to use what works best in whatever situation they are in. Many adults with low vision use print for things like identifying mail, reading labels on items, etc, and use braille for lengthier tasks or presentations, and use audio for still other reading tasks. Braille can be a very important element in providing a medium for learning to read, especially if a child experiences reading fatigue and loses interest in reading. Whether your child experiences this is something you may need to monitor over years. The print will get smaller and reading load will get much heavier as your daughter moves toward fifth and sixth grade. It is also important to figure in any factors that have to do with her eye condition. Is it stable (e.g. albinism) or degenerative (RP)? Or is there a possibility that she may lose vision suddenly (ROP)? If the latter is the case, you may opt not to teach braille now if she is not interested or not retaining it but stay aware that she may need it later. In that case, keep a positive attitude about it so that you can help her adjust to it emotionally if the need arises.

    Hope this helps. Follow your heart.

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