Review: Hebrew I (Zondervan Online Lectures)

(See bottom of my review for the Discount Code)

As I’ve mentioned before, I took Elementary Hebrew at SBTS this fall semester. Before I started the course, I knew two things about my teacher, Peter J. Gentry. First, he was brilliant at Hebrew. Second, he was tough. This was a graduate course, and he treats it as such. Zondervan had just begun to have online courses (35 now), so I spent the rest of my summer going through these videos.

The Zondervan Academic Online Course for Hebrew I is taught by Miles Van Pelt. Van Pelt teaches at Reformed theological Seminary, has contributed to the new A Biblical Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, but is most known for his Basics of Biblical Hebrew works.

The course is self-paced, but it must be completed within 12 months. It is 16 units long with each unit following a four-part structure: Overview, Study, Review, and Assess, and ends with a midterm. Hebrew II is also made up of 16 units and ends with the final.

Class Lectures

  1. Alphabet and Vowels
  2. Syllables and Pronunciation
  3. Nouns
  4. Definite Article and Conjunction Waw
  5. Prepositions
  6. Adjectives
  7. Pronouns
  8. Pronominal Suffixes
  9. Construct Chain
  10. Numbers
  11. Introduction to Verbs
  12. Qal Perfect – Strong
  13. Qal Perfect – Weak
  14. Qal Imperfect – Strong
  15. Qal Imperfect – Weak
  16. Waw Consecutive

In these videos, Van Pelt take you through morphology and helps answer the question: “How does this language work?” Rather than rote memorization, he shows how the grammar works. Why do certain vowels change when a word becomes plural? Which vowel does a consonant take? Why? Beginning Hebrew with this understanding makes Hebrew much more possible.

After taking a physical class (50 minutes, 4x a week) with a physical teacher directly in front of me, one value with these videos is that you can replay them as many times as you want. I usually understood what was going on in my class, but there was one particular class (#16) that boggled my mind. After coming home and watching one of the lectures, I saw the subject from a different angle, and it all made sense. 

The red shows you what is new in the lesson.

Time: 30-40 minutes.

The lectures are front-loaded with information so that when you begin learning Verbs you know all of the morphological rules for many of the changes you will see. Working on the nouns will make the verbs easier (as they can look very similar). As you progress, the tiny rules really begin to add up when you start translating sentences and the Bible. Some rules seem too small to deserve any room in your memory, but let me assure you—they are not insignificant. Those initial rules are the most important. If you don’t memorize them in the beginning, when you do realize you were mistaken, you’re going to be in deep (and you’ll have to learn all of those rules anyway). 

I say this because, with Hebrew being my first biblical language, and being the first language I learned where morphological rules were taught to me, I thought, “Big deal? This can’t be too difficult to remember.” Even though I did take the time to learn the rules, I am still constantly having to refresh my memory over these minute details. They are crucial, and Van Pelt is excellent at explaining the rules of Hebrew morphology and grammar.

Vocabulary

The vocabulary program used was developed by Cerego. It shows you the vocabulary word, lets you hear the pronunciation, and it tracks which words you are strong in and which ones you are weak in. I found the system to be pretty fun, actually. Each unit ends with a quiz. There is a keyboard system to know how to type each consonant and vowel, but it has a steep learning curve and is pretty clunky if you don’t know all of the hot keys. 

Audience

Those who will do this will either need to be self-learners or motivated enough to become self-learners. These could be pastors, students, or anybody who wants to learn/re-learn biblical Hebrew. You could use this for yourself, as a group study, or a class at church. Professors could use it and integrate it into their classrooms alongside their courses or as a new online program. As classes are slowly going the way of online learning, schools can implement these courses too. 

Recommended?

  • Pros:
    • You can rewatch the videos, which is helpful when you still don’t understand a topic
    • The examples are written out and explained in front of you
    • There is often a fuller explanation given than what is found in the book 
    • Van Pelt is clear in his teaching, and by teaching morphology, the later grammar makes more sense.
  • Cons:
    • As far as I can tell, you can’t ask questions
    • Sometimes I think they focus more on small matters that may not matter much
    • Costs more than buying the Grammar + Workbook.
    • You have access to the course for only one year.

Van Pelt writes out what changes occur in forms of words (e.g., from nouns to adjectives) and why they occur.

The best way to learn any language is to have a teacher right in front of you who can answer every question you might have, but those who aren’t able to go to seminary have to rely on books to learn Hebrew, and you can’t ask books questions. This is a good midway. Van Pelt writes out rules and words in front of you and helps you see why changes happen. I’ve seen Van Pelt clearly explain an few unclear sections from his book—something I would have remained perplexed on my own. Most of the grammar that you would find in the Grammar book is found here, but you will need the Workbook so that you can practice, practice, practice. The Workbook has helped me immensely in my own class this semester.

Lagniappe

This course discount code will get you 15% of of the course price: SPENCER

Disclosure: I received these lectures free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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