By Mikel Del Rosario.
Have you ever felt like the more you study the Biblical Languages, the more Greek and Hebrew you seem to forget?
I felt that way, too, when I was first starting out. Today, I’ve completed my fourth semester of Greek and I’m currently in my fourth semester of Hebrew at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Along the way, I discovered something that helped my Greek and Hebrew to stick.In this post, I’ll share five simple ways to use your senses in order to learn Biblical Greek and Hebrew. How can you better use your eyes, ears, mouth, hands and even your nose to make these languages stick?
First, let’s consider the faculty of sight. I’ve found that creating concrete pictures I can see to help me remember things like Greek case endings and Hebrew pronominal suffixes.When I was first starting out in Greek, I memorized all the indicative endings in the order they appeared in Mounce’s text. But when it came to translation, I found that I had to rattle almost all of them all off in my mind before I could parse a 1st Person Singular Pluperfect Active Indicative verb. So I decided to associate the endings with pictures.
For example, the ending κης reminds me of a briefcase. As long as I can remember that the Pluperfect tense appears with an augment and reduplication, I know it’s a second person singular ending because I put the picture in a specific place beside a triangle like this:
You can come up with other pictures for the rest and fill them in. I’ve found this memory device allows me to more easily access Greek endings in my mind without having to mentally go through the entire indicative chart before being able to parse quickly and translate more easily. In Hebrew, the same strategy helped me learn pronominal suffixes. If you’re interested in learning more about this system, a good resource is Biblical Hebrew Made Easy by Blair Kasfeldt.
Second, let’s think about using sound. For most people, music and hearing things over and over again makes information stick. For example, few people sat down and memorized the first verse of Amazing Grace. They learn the lyrics through repetition and music. I know I’m primarily an auditory learner because I remember what I hear in class more than what I read in a book–and I still know all the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” from when I was in 7th grade!
For me, writing songs to help me remember Greek paradigms and principal parts works well. I’ve been amazed at how creating audio interlinears have helped me come close to memorizing the entire books of Jonah and Ruth! I recommend you check out Sing and Learn New Testament Greek by Kenneth Berding and this audio interlinear of Jonah on YouTube as examples of what you can create on your own.
Third, reinforce the auditory aspect of learning by verbalizing it. This has really worked for me. Sing these songs in the shower. Recite the Scriptures along with your audio interlinear. Try it on your own without your audio interlinear. You’ll soon find yourself coming close to memorizing the inspired text as a latent function of studying the biblical languages.
Fourth, reinforce all of this further by writing Greek and Hebrew. Write out the vocabulary words and Scripture passages you are studying. Beyond this, certain nouns lend themselves to tactile learning. Hold some change in your hand, feel the coins and say “argurion” or “kesef.” Look at the coins and name them again. For me, combining the senses of sight, sound, and touch makes the meaning of vocabulary words extra sticky.
The last sense to consider is our sense of smell. Honestly, I’m not sure how to use my sense of smell in order to learn Greek or Hebrew. But this article seems incomplete without at least mentioning one small way to do this: Find a vocabulary word that was to do with something you eat or drink and think of these words while smelling, touching and eating it. For example, think ὕδωρ “hudor” or מָ֫יִם “mayim” while drinking a glass of water.
There’s no need to feel like the things you’re studying are seeping out of your mind as you progress in your study of Greek and Hebrew. I’ve found these five simple ways to incorporate my eyes, ears, mouth, hands and even my nose in studying the Biblical languages can help the information to stick. Try it and see how these practices might help you, too!
By Mikel Del Rosario. Mikel is an apologetics speaker and adjunct professor of Christian Apologetics at William Jessup University. He is also a Cultural Engagement assistant at Dallas Theological Seminary where he is pursuing a Master of Theology (Th.M.). Follow Mikel on Facebook, Twitter and read his blog at ApologeticsGuy.com.