Translating

TC recently opined concerning how his Greek suffered in 2009. Ever since I graduated from seminary in 2004, my knowledge of Hebrew has considerably weakened. In an attempt to remedy this unfortunate state, I’ve been reviewing Hebrew grammar and vocabulary for a little while now and I am noticing improvement. Though memorizing paradigms and vocabulary are important, I have found actually translating the text to be more beneficial for relearning what I thought was forever burned into my brain.

One example from seminary reinforces this for me. I took a Hebrew exegesis class on the Psalms and one of our assignments was to recite Psalm 23 (with no helps or prompts obviously) before the class. It was a minor assignment, only a small percentage of the final grade, but it turned out to be a most helpful exercise. I, of course, memorized it and recited it and went on with the remainder of the semester toiling through the quizzes, paper, and exams. But even now, so many years later, I remember that psalm. I stumble through a couple of the verses, but because I learned to read it and say it, I feel it stuck with me.

Now, depending on the text I am reading and/or translating, I see a word that is used in that psalm, regardless of the inflection, and I can usually parse it so that I can move on in the text. It is so time-consuming to stop and look up a word in a lexicon or in the footnotes (I use A Reader’s Hebrew Bible for my current endeavor). So when I run across those occasional words that occur in Psalm 23, I am reminded of the importance reading, translating, and memorizing have in my efforts to become proficient in Hebrew.

Are there any particular methods you have used that have been helpful?

,שָׁלוֹם

Jason

4 thoughts on “Translating

  1. Matt: Yes, paradigms are good to know, but sometimes I think it contributes to the dislike of learning languages. Of course, if you’re going to be tested on them, that’s a good incentive to memorize them!

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