Conversations (2)

Shabbat Shalom to all!
Thank you Elli for the invitation and thank you Yosef and Yehudah for the conversation. May it bring clarity and may we find just peace.

Shabbat shalom,

You are asking us to share what troubles us in “this field”.

What I am really concerned about is the fact that “teaching and learning Hebrew” in North America still cannot be considered a true “field”.  A field is an academic discipline that relies on research and systematic application of knowledge in educational settings, as can be said of other fields of teaching second languages. 

The current research about teaching and learning Hebrew is anecdotal and not systematic enough to support the work of a field.  Currently there are efforts by academic institutions to build academic programs.  Not all of these will result in contributions to the field, however.  Only an academic degree that requires students to take part in the act of inquiry and a search to push the boundaries of the profession will support the building of a field.

Building the field is an urgent need.  It is true that people and organizations passionate about Hebrew support the creation of excellent Hebrew programs within various educational frameworks. Without a true field, however, such efforts are not sustainable.

Another concern that I have is the decline in numbers of students enrolling in Modern Hebrew courses at the university level. This is troubling not only because fluency in Hebrew is needed in order to pursue different areas of study but also because it means that we cannot look to Hebrew programs to be our “recruitment pool” for future Hebrew educators.
First, I would like to second (or third) Yael and Sharon’s call for research into methodologies for Hebrew language instruction of students with special needs - this is indeed is a pressing priority.

More generally, in the spirit of applied research, I would suggest investing in avenues of research that are most likely to influence practice and about which we have the least information. We should assess what we already know before embarking on additional research. And we should define our primary purposes, since what is required for a vibrant academic discipline, for example, is different from what is required to improve secondary education (my personal passion). The first indeed deals with many of the conceptual and theoretical issues that have been raised. The second requires the cultivation of knowledgeable and skilled professional classroom teachers and the ongoing development of classroom teaching methods and materials.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this blogcast – Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom to everyone.