Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Hebrew

So here's the thing:

The professor, who could not possibly exhibit more patience, explains the material slowly and clearly.

"So now you know [whatever it is]," he says calmly.

And some people, perhaps most people in the class, actually do.

I spend two hours with him later in the day; he basically re-teaches the entire morning's class to me.

I spend two more hours with the tutor and a couple of my classmates. She re-teaches most of the class -- my third time through in one day.

I spend hours with the workbook, reading and re-reading and slowly, slowly, slowly making sense out of the material, enough that I can understand it when I read it and practice it for the zillionth time, but not enough to have knowledge independent of the text. Not enough to be able to reconstruct or explain any of it.

I try the practice review in the text. I cannot answer a single question.

You know, I get it. I understand the value in being able to read, if only for a brief few months in time, some of the Scriptural text in the original.

But there are so many other things I want to learn that would be of so much more value to me in ministry ~

And all the time that would go to them is being devoted instead to a language that, if my experience with Greek is any indication, I will have completely forgotten a year from now.

If I were not so close to the finish line, I would seriously think about giving up.


mompriest said...

well, yes, although I found Hebrew easier than Greek, that isn't saying much. And now, 15 years later, I don't remember a single bit of either. I just use resources where other folks (scholars) have done this work for me. And frankly, whether I can read Greek or Hebrew in the original, or not, has not impacted my ministry in any significant way what so ever. Ever.

Kathryn J said...

This is exactly what I was telling a mutual friend yesterday. I can't imagine why you would need to know these ancient languages to become a minister. We decided that it's one of those "we did it so you have to do it too" things.

Hang in there - it will pass.

Sarah S-D said...

how extraordinarily frustrated you must feel. i wonder if this isn't especially an early days of an intensive feeling... i hope so... i hope it feels better with time. hebrew felt a bit like algebra to me, the only sort of math i ever liked, (that's not to say it was math that came easily to me- no math came easily to me). it felt like a puzzle- always on a hunt for that magical three letter root. and finding the root was like finding what x equals. i don't remember much now. i took gk right after, and backed gk up with another semester so the hebrew is gone, but i do remember having some fun with it. but admittedly only used it OCCASIONALLY in 6 yrs of ministry- i did use it occasionally though, in teaching more than in preaching. may there be some grace in this for you. it sounds like you have some good colleagues for the journey.

Daisy said...

Yikes! I went to have a peek at what Hebrew looks like. Yikes!

Okay, so how do you say: "Where is the Holiday Inn?" in Hebrew? :p

Kidding aside, you can do this, G. Take a few deep breaths and give it some time for this new info to sink in.


Purple said...

But there are so many other things I want to learn that would be of so much more value to me in ministry ~

...just one of the many places where the seminary/denomination need to do some serious re-thinking. You get that...and are lightyears ahead because of it.

Michelle said...

Don't give up. Don't let them win. Think of all the opportunities God is giving ever patient professor to offer grace? To paraphrase Karl Rahner - we should try to drink the cup, but there will be times we want to run from it - and that's not always a bad thing.

hang in there!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I'm so sorry it's so frustrating. Best of luck as you continue the class.

Lisa :-] said...

I find it ironic that you taught at an Orthodox Jewish school, and are still having such a hard time with Hebrew... ;)

Maybe you have some old contacts at the school who could help you over the hump?

Gannet Girl said...

Teaching history and learning Hebrew are 2 entirely different skill and mind sets.

And the kids were always trying to teach me Hebrew,and were very amused by my inadequacies.

Quotidian Grace said...

I get it, too. It would be wonderful to be able to read the original texts in the original languages--but some of us just don't have the gift to do it. Especially after 50. Darn.

Presbyterian Gal said...

You'll get there! I know you can I know you can I know you can

(there's my preschool two bits of encouragement)

Hebrew Student said...

Thanks for your post about finding it hard to learn Hebrew and make sense of the text. Keep persevering! In Hebrew there is a proverb "Kol techilot kashot" which means "All beginnings are hard". Just keep at it. I know you will think learning Hebrew isn't justifying the time you are putting into it, but it will pay off in the long run if you keep going. Your progress will start to accelerate, and you will get there one day. Being able to read the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) in the original is far far more rewarding than any translation. You won't be a slave to the translation any more.