Why Our Method?

Comprehensible Input

You may have noticed that our videos use a methodology for teaching that many people have never experienced, especially for the biblical languages. It’s called Comprehensible Input, and it’s one of the most effective pedagogical strategies in the world. It’s not new, and it’s easy to understand. 

When people begin watching our videos, many immediately think we’ve forgotten to add English subtitles or need to write everything that’s being said on the screen. But rest assured that all of this is for a reason. It’s an important part of our pedagogy, which you can learn about more on this webpage.

Keeping It Simple

Basically, when you learn a language, the most important thing is to hear a lot of the language in a way that is comprehensible. That means that the content presented to you needs to be in a format that communicates implicitly what’s going on, whether through images or objects or actions.  The guy who has championed this method the most is Stephen Krashen, and it’s sometimes referred to as the Natural Approach. He pointed out that “language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drills.”  He also argued that the best methods for teaching a language are those that give comprehensible input in low anxiety situations, with messages that students actually want to hear. It’s important not to force people to talk early in the second language, but allow students to start talking when they are ready. Students improve when you supply them with more communicative and comprehensible input, rather than forcing them to speak and then correcting them. As you’ll see in our videos, we incorporate all of this methodology, and students all over the world are finding that learning Hebrew is less frustrating and intimidating than they ever dreamed. You can read what some of them are saying here.

When you start watching our videos you’ll notice that you won’t see anything written on the screen, and we won’t begin by teaching you the alphabet. There’s good reason for this! You see, when you were a child, your parents didn’t begin by teaching you the alphabet before they taught you words, right? No one teaches babies the alphabet before they learn their first words!  God designed us this way for a reason. So in the first handful of videos in our series you will only learn basic words and phrases; but no alphabet. We don’t assume any beginner can read yet, just like your parents didn’t assume you could read when you were born. When you’re a kid you spend years learning to speak and understand your language before going to school to learn how to read it. That is the logical way it works for everyone. If we did things the opposite way, both children and parents would end up very discouraged and frustrated! And that’s one of the reasons so many people give up or never get very far when they try to learn biblical Hebrew: the natural order of things has been reversed.

Although we would love to spend years teaching you how to speak and understand Hebrew before introducing the alphabet, we realize that’s not realistic for a lot of people. So instead we spend six lessons giving the basics in our videos without any alphabet or texts. Then, little by little we will begin teaching you the letters, but be patient!  We won’t teach all of the letters in one lesson, rather we’ll go nice and slow to allow time for our students to better internalize the symbols and sounds, so that they won’t get overwhelmed. Then, by the time you complete lesson 19, you should be ready to start reading. Once again, our methodology is not for those who are in a rush and want to take shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to quality language learning. Your mind needs time to naturally process things in the right order. If you short circuit that process, you’ll be disappointed with the results and grow discouraged. Learning Hebrew is not a race; it’s an expedition that lasts a lifetime.

This is also why we do not include English translations/subtitles for everything that is said in the videos. If we did that, it wouldn’t allow your brain to truly digest and internalize what it’s being exposed to. Once again, when you learned your mother tongue as a child, no one translated what was being said to you into another language, because you didn’t know any other languages! So we encourage you to be patient, relax, and let your brain do the amazing things that God has designed it to do. After several repetitions of a video you will find that you understand everything (or almost everything) without the need of translation.

Say Goodbye to Anxiety

Another important principle of language learning that Krashen talks about is that there must not be any stress involved in the process. Once students feel threatened or on the defensive, a mental block goes up and prevents language acquisition from happening. The more students can feel at ease, encouraged, and believe that success is possible for them, the more language they’ll internalize. Until now, the main way for someone to learn Hebrew this way has been to study in Israel for a number of months or years. But we should keep in mind that culture shock, strange food, high cost of living, missing family back home, getting used to a new roommate, and having to navigate a new context in Modern Hebrew (in addition to biblical Hebrew in class) may all add up to significant stress, which in turn hinders the language learning process. Sometimes Bible translators from other countries struggle with life in Israel, not because of the quality of their program or care they receive from personnel, but simply because they have to adapt to so many new things at once and they miss their families.
So our question is, how can we best serve our brothers and sisters?  The answer is: give them the option to learn from the comfort of their own home. What could be less intimidating than free videos that you can rewind and repeat as much as you need, at your own pace? There are no other students who might laugh at your mistakes, no teacher who might occasionally run out of patience (I’ve been one!). You’re not worried about how the farm is back home, nor missing your spouse and kids. And if you do get the chance to travel to Israel, you’ll already have a good start in Hebrew to take full advantage of your time there! At the end of the day, we hope our videos will better serve the global Church and level the playing field so that everyone has an equal, stress-less opportunity to learn biblical Hebrew. And we invite others who teach this way to join us in making more comprehensible input content available for free!

We highly recommend watching the following three videos of Stephen Krashen himself explaining the science and theory of the method we use, as well as further principles for success in language acquisition. Although the video is dated, the content is still as relevant and helpful today as ever. For those of you who would prefer to listen to a podcast instead of watching videos, you can listen to Andrew’s two episodes on language-learning that includes Krashen’s teaching audio below and more. Also, we strongly recommend that you take the time to read the best treatment of this subject, which is Scott McQuinn’s excellent thesis, Toward a Principled Communicative Methodology for Teaching the Biblical Languages which is free for everyone here!