Learning the biblical languages can be very discouraging and frustrating. Studies and experience have shown that this is the most difficult aspect of theological training for students over the centuries. Many theologians have come to believe that a proper understanding and mastery of the biblical languages is what makes one “thick” theologically.
Just like learning any new language, learning the biblical languages can be on the one hand frustrating and discouraging, but on the other hand exciting and rewarding. There are no fast and hard rules on learning Greek and Hebrew. This is because individual motivation for learning differ significantly. Below are some general tips I have found helpful in learning the languages:
Commit your study in Prayer: I have found that constantly committing my studies in prayer very helpful. There are times I feel very discouraged that I don’t want to go any further. At such times, believe you me when I pray I usually receive comfort and courage to keep on.
Develop a Positive Attitude Toward Learning: One of the reasons why students easily become discouraged about learning Greek and Hebrew is because they have developed a negative attitude toward the languages. Some of it may be as a result of what they have been told by their friends and senior colleagues prior to taking the course, while the other part may be because of their personal experience with the course. But I believe that for one to be successful in learning the languages, one has to first and foremost believe that it is doable. Such a positive attitude will keep you going during difficult times.
Master Your Vocabulary: One of the keys to mastering Greek and Hebrew is to be determined to master your vocabulary. In my own opinion, a mastery of the vocabulary is the number one advantage to learning the languages.
Rehearse Constantly: You cannot be successful in learning either Greek or Hebrew if you do not develop a habit of constant practice. As it has been observed by many, it is much easier to forget the language than it is learning it. So to be on top of “your game”, you have to rehearse constantly.
Apply Wisdom in Using your Time: One of the common mistakes students make in learning the biblical languages is the temptation to spend many hours at a stretch doing the same thing. From my experience, however, the learning becomes simpler and more exciting when one spends few hours over and over again than long stretches of hours.
By Seth Kajang Bature. Seth is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA.