In this post and in a few future posts, I will be giving some advice for those who may wish to learn Biblical Hebrew through self study. One of the most important decisions you will need to make is which grammar to use when studying Biblical Hebrew. For me, there is no question currently about which grammar beginners should use. I recommend that students start with John Dobson’s Learn Biblical Hebrew.
There is one primary reason behind this recommendation. The text includes a very helpful audio recording. Pronunciation is one of the most difficult aspects of a second or foreign language to learn (This has been experimentally shown in a study by Pulvermuller). In addition, research has shown that listening can be highly beneficial in the learning of pronunciation. Thus, there is no question in my mind that someone learning Hebrew through self study must have a text that includes audio recordings. There are a number of other texts that include audio recordings for Biblical Hebrew; however, after reviewing these grammars Dobson’s seem to be set up the best as they can also aid in vocabulary learning.
A student should probably listen to the recordings accompanying Dobson with a greater degree of frequency than is actually suggested in the text. I would propose at least 40 minutes of listening per week due to research by Stephen Krashen and others suggesting that this amount of extended reading per week can lead to overall language gains. This is more than the text actually has the student listening.
One may wish to move into another more thorough text after beginning with Dobson, which is likely a good idea. However, I think that starting with Dobson will give an independent learner the best chance of success provided by any other current introductory grammar. In addition, before getting into the grammar I also suggest that students consider learning a bit of Modern Hebrew while they are studying the AlephBet. This allows the learner to pick up a bit of grammar and vocabulary before they even begin “reading” the language.