Fuller and Choi’s Invitation to Biblical Hebrew

Russell T. Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi, Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar, Invitation to Theological Studies. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006. 364 pp. $49.00.

Warning: the use of this grammar could revolutionize the study of Hebrew. Follow all instructions. Use only if the desire is to learn the language. Mix with diligence to achieve desired result: ability to read Hebrew.

Kregel is to be congratulated, and Russell Fuller is to be praised for this pioneering approach to the study of Hebrew. Kregel has published not only the text of Invitation to Biblical Hebrew produced by Fuller and Choi, but also a set of six DVDs containing two semesters’ worth of lectures through the grammar. What ignites the use of the grammar and the DVDs, however, is undoubtedly the workbook. The grammar gives the student the raw data. The DVDs present Fuller lecturing through the grammar. And the workbook—if used—will drill students on the material until the fundamentals of the language are instinctive for them. Grammar, DVDs, workbook: an explosive combination.

Fuller and Choi honed this material through years of classroom use. This reviewer studied under Fuller and Choi as they were perfecting the material, and the method they use is the method that I now use to take my own students through the first year of Hebrew. The procedure looks like this: before coming to class, students are to read the chapter on their own. Having read the chapter, they then watch Fuller lecture on the material on the DVD. At that point, the student is ready to review the chapter. At the end of each chapter is a series of carefully crafted questions. In order to answer these questions, the student must not only regurgitate but be able to use the information presented in the chapter. Questions like these are priceless. They put information into action. Once the student can answer the questions, there is a set of drills waiting at the end of the chapter in the text of the grammar. These drills strategically review material from previous chapters, while pounding home the material from the present chapter. The student comes to class with a working knowledge of the material, hears the professor lecture on the material again, and then moves to the workbook. In the workbook is another set of drills designed to reinforce the material.

Working through the material this way takes the student again and again through the material. Basketball players who do their dribble drills over and over find that the basketball becomes an extension of their hand. Students of Hebrew who faithfully work through this material find that the fundamentals of the Hebrew language become part of the furniture of their minds.

The process may seem extensive and demanding, but the process gives students a real shot at learning a very foreign, very difficult language. Moreover, this process, however intense, is much less painful than the stress produced by other methods which do not drill the material enough for the student to actually learn what is necessary to be able to read.

Theoretically, this method could be used by those not enrolled in a Hebrew course at an institution. Everything necessary to learn the language on one’s own is provided. Thanks to Fuller and Choi, anyone with the time and discipline to consistently go after the material can learn to read Hebrew.

There are all manner of debates among Hebrew grammarians as to the best approach to learning the language: should students proceed inductively or be forced to memorize a bevy of paradigms, does modern linguistics provide a magic potion or is the older approach that compares Hebrew to Arabic and other ancient languages more reliable, and on and on. Fuller and Choi dedicate their work to Isaac Jerusalmi of Hebrew Union College, which will alert those aware of these things to the school of thought to which they belong. The student who comes to this grammar will neither be daunted by a bevy of paradigms nor thrown over the cliff of sheer induction. Rather, by combining the fundamentals of the language with a core of memorization, the student comes to understand how the vowel system works in both nouns and verbs. Whatever one’s perspective on the various debates among Hebrew grammarians, for the student, the method of this grammar, with its brilliant drills, make it the best approach to learning Hebrew. These drills were produced by a beautiful mind and reflect the greatness of a teacher who cares enough for his students to push them to understand the material. Thus, the drills, as with the questions at the end of the chapters, challenge students not only to reproduce the material but master it.

Great teachers, like great coaches, emphasize the fundamentals. Russell Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi understand the fundamentals of the Hebrew language, and their grammar presents these fundamentals in systematic detail. With the systematic detail come an array of pithy mnemonic devices that make the learning of a difficult language fun. One is tempted to call Russell Fuller the John Wooden of Hebrew teachers.

7 Comments

Filed under Bible and Theology, Books, Spiritual Discipline

7 responses to “Fuller and Choi’s Invitation to Biblical Hebrew

  1. I agree with everything written here except this, “Theoretically, this method could be used by those not enrolled in a Hebrew course at an institution. Everything necessary to learn the language on one’s own is provided.”

    As a student of several dead languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin), I’ve found that there is nothing more essential than a good teacher to interact with. In a real sense, the material is all one needs to gain the fundamentals, but there are always those questions that remain unanswered which if answered could make it all fit together.

    When I worked through Mounce and Wallace, I also purchased several other grammars in order to see how others approached the subjects. Often I found that those pieces missing from one were supplied by another. A good teacher often has all the grammars and has consulted them often. He will be able to help his students approach each subject from a multitude of angles in the hope that one of the approaches will stick.

    Looks like it’s time to discard my old Fuller binders and get the real deal.

    Warmly,

    CT

  2. Jim Weaver

    Jim,

    Thanks for the nice words. It’s great to hear affirming comments like yours.

    Jim Weaver

  3. Thanks for this review. I was not aware of this grammar but it sounds great and I’ll definitely have to look into it.
    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  4. Abraham

    I wonder if anything comparable is available for Greek?

  5. I took all my hebrew courses (2 years) with Dr. Fuller at southern seminary using his Invitation to Biblical Hebrew. The drils are very very good. The book, of course, is superb. I highly recommend it.

    Blessings,
    Lou

  6. Pingback: How to Prepare for Second Semester Hebrew « For His Renown

  7. tlangejr

    I found out that the seminary that I attend has the DVD set in the library. I have checked it out and will be going through this. I am in second semester Hebrew and we are using Weingreen, but I plan to supplement my classroom studies with this DVD set and hopefully this will increase my competency in the Biblical Hebrew.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s