I’m hosting my first ever Intro Hebrew tutorial tomorrow. The idea is that students in the college’s Intro Hebrew course can show up for some extra help with whatever they’re struggling with. The class is using Pratico/Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew (the same text I learned on), and they’re just starting the chapter on adjectives in class tomorrow. So these students are still pretty much brand new to the Hebrew language. I’m trying to remember what it was that I found hardest at that point in my studies. Probably it was syllabification and vocalization (I still have trouble with vocalization sometimes). I’m interested to see where people are struggling tomorrow.
So for those of you who’ve done some Hebrew, what was the hardest part for you? Where was the learning curve the steepest in your novice Hebrew days? And for that matter, what kinds of things do you think students would find valuable in a tutorial?
Alan Lenzi has a funny little post on a writing exercise for his fresher* class. As he notes, the kind of uber-structured writing he is forcing them to do is “boring and formulaic” but it’s also the only way to get people to write well.
Writing is one of those things that people, for whatever perverse reason, think you should be able to just sit down and do well. You hear all kinds of nonsense about writing “from the heart” and how writing shouldn’t be structured. The fact is, however, that good writers are like good musicians. The only way to make free, improvisational, artistically expressive music is to practice fundamentals until your fingers bleed. Nobody picks up a guitar and “just plays” jazz improv. Thousands of hours of practice go into “just playing.” Same deal with writing.
Want to be a good writer? Then go read Alan’s post, and practice until your fingers bleed. Only once you can work through a pedantic exercise like the one he’s designed are you ready to “just write.”
This is a point driven home particularly well in my single favorite book on English grammar, Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax. Learn the rules, and then learn how to break them. That’s what great writers do.
*I’m picking up on the British use of “fresher” instead of the gender-exclusive “freshman” you find in NA. HT to Mark Goodacre.