Published: July 31, 2009

If you learned a language in high school, odds are you remember snippets, phrases, or mere words of the language you studied.

Biblical Hebrew Instructor David Valeta’s goal is to teach a language so that students will remember it for years, using what is called Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). This change in his teaching pedagogy and practices will require the use of imagination, technology, and a touch of bravery.

“Usually, you sit down, you memorize vocabulary and rules,” Valeta explains. “But with CLT, they will hear it, see it, speak it. Grammar comes, but only after they’ve already been using the language.”

The approach is modeled after how children most often learn languages: often by hearing it and being immersed within it. Children learn to speak before they learn to read and write. Not only that, but they learn both of those things before they ever learn what a noun or verb is.

Valeta’s plan is to use CULearn, video clips, audio tracks and props to facilitate student learning in his brand new Biblical Hebrew (HEBR 1030 & JWST 1030) class in Fall 2009. All these parts combined will create an interactive and immersive learning environment for first year Biblical Hebrew students.

Valeta has used technology in the past to make his classes more appealing to students, but this will be the first time he will use it with the CLT model of language teaching. “Hopefully, this will be more effective. Hopefully it will be more fun,” Valeta imparts. He imagines that when students realize classes will be filled with videos, music and props instead of countless drills, that they will be more inclined to show up to class.

That’s what other professor’s around the country think as well. To learn the CLT method, Valeta  earned an ASSETT Dean’s Fund for Excellence Award to attend the Pedagogy Workshop in Communicative Biblical Hebrew. At the conference, he met teachers around the country who are also implementing the CLT method of language teaching in their Biblical Hebrew classrooms.

Of the four day, 8-hours-a-day workshop, “probably a third of the course was in Hebrew,” Valeta explains. “They taught the method to us by teaching us, as if we were the students in the class.”

Using technology in the classroom should make learning Biblical Hebrew, a ‘dead language’ more accessible to students—allowing them to study in the car with a CD, at home listening to video and audio clips on their computers, and at school with their peers. It’s what you can think of as modern-day language immersion.

David Valeta’s new class is just another example of how pedagogy and technology can pair up and create opportunities to enhance teaching and learning.

Written by: Kate Vander Wiede, CU '09, ASSETT Staff