This post is part 2 of my report on the the annual meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature, held Nov 17-20 in Chicago. Here is the first part. In its second session, our Applied Linguistics group hosted a panel to address the question, “Where should we set the bar in biblical language training?” The idea was to discuss what seminaries, colleges, and graduate programs should expect from students in their respective programs. For instance, when a seminary graduate finishes a 3-year M.Div, what level should his or her Greek/Hebrew be at?
I was quite surprised and very happy to see the turnout at this meeting. It was the fullest of any session I attended. I would estimate over 100 people attended–not bad for a group with such an exciting name (Applied Linguistics)! That says to me that the influence of the communicative Greek/Hebrew movement is growing (largely due to the efforts of Randall Buth and the BLC and aided by the internet, especially groups like B-Greek, which numerous proponents of oral-aural approaches frequent). I have presented on communicative Greek teaching at the ETS or SBL for the past 5 years or so and I found this year’s audience by far the most receptive. The message is sinking in!
Panel participants included Hélène Dallaire, who teaches Hebrew at Denver Seminary and Robert Holmstedt, who teaches Hebrews at U of Toronto and blogs occasionally at Ancient Hebrew Grammar. Both of their papers were very good, and included a lot of thoughtful reflection on the importance of biblical language training and how to communicate that to students. Both also spoke helpfully from their substantial experience in teaching Hebrew about where the bar is currently being set and some possible strategies for raising the bar. Robert has posted his paper and some reflections on the panel here, so be sure to check that out.
I think I would be accurate in claiming that there was broad, maybe unanimous consent among the panelists and the audience that the bar was currently being set too low. Of course, I guess that’s what you should expect from a bunch of language teachers!
My next post in the series will discuss the presentation I gave to the group arguing that the bar should be set at fluency.