Hamline News

January 24, 2012

J-Term Course Marks First Time for Hamline Hebrew Language Course

Hebrew class full

Hebrew, a language spoken globally from Tel-Aviv to Minsk, has come to Hamline.

“It’s a beautiful, ancient language with a rich history of literature,” said Professor Earl Schwartz, who teaches religion in Hamline's College of Liberal Arts. “It’s also a very modern language that has adapted and evolved over time.”

The Beginning Hebrew course, offered this J-term for the first time as a part of Hamline’s newly-developed Middle East Studies program, involves intensive study of the language as well as creative methods to help students retain what they have learned. Rather than rely entirely on workbooks and lectures, Schwartz, who is fluent in Hebrew, believes the key to language learning is having fun.

“So far in the class, we’ve danced, we’ve sung, we’ve eaten, and we’ve done scavenger hunts,” Schwartz said. “All of these things are not only enjoyable and build community, but they promote a practical, holistic understanding of Hebrew.”

Schwartz has also developed unique ways to help students track their own success and their grasp of the language. On the first day of class, he played a video of Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman speaking Hebrew and has subsequently played it again several times as the course has progressed. Each time students see the video, they are able to recognize more of what is being said.

“By the end of the course, they will be able to understand everything she’s saying,” Schwartz said.

The students in the course have differing motivations for learning Hebrew. While some will be studying abroad in the Middle East or plan to pursue Biblical studies, there are others who are simply interested in engaging with a new language.

“Learning language is an effective way to open your mind to new ways of seeing the world, which is a core part of a Hamline education,” Schwartz said.

As Middle East Studies at Hamline expands, Schwartz said that the opportunities for students to learn new languages and discover cultures will increase, as well. 

Find out more about the new Middle East Studies program at Hamline.