Page 119 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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HARAMATI / HEBREW TEXTBOOKS
111
Biblical Hebrew and did not hesitate to coin words as needed .2
From the point o f view o f quality and suitability for children,
Isaac Leeser’s
The Hebrew Reader
(Philadelphia, 1838) can be
viewed as the first Hebrew textbook for Jewish elementary
schools. In his in troduction Leeser pointed ou t that similar
books, such as those o f Ben Ze’ev, had appeared in Europe
but tha t he had not found any that suited children whose mo th­
er tongue was English. Worthy o f mention also is the textbook
au tho red by B ernard Felsenthal, a Reform rabbi who wrote and
spoke Hebrew,
A Practical Grammar o f the Hebrew Language fo r
Schools and Colleges
(1861). He felt that pupils were being sub­
jected to excessive gramm ar study and decided there fo re to cut
down on it. In his introduction he stated that his aim was the
study o f the Hebrew language and not o f Hebrew grammar.
During the 19th century as well as the beginning o f the 20th
there appeared in America many texts tha t were based on the
Translation and the Grammar-Translation approaches, such as
those o f H.A. Goldin (
Iv r it
, co-authored with B.N. Silkiner) and
o f Joseph Magilnitzky, who a rranged his material in parallel
Hebrew and English columns.
NEW EMPHASIS
T h e chief drawback o f the various translation approaches is
that they requ ire much repetition and often lead to frustration
on the par t o f the learner because o f the differences in language
structure and usage. T h e results have usually been very poor
for the amoun t o f time expended , and have led educators to
seek ways to improve the ir efforts. One o f the suggested pal­
liatives has been the Bilingual Approach. Instead o f drilling the
learner on vocabulary and unre la ted sentences this approach
starts immediately with a story that can interest the child. It
involves writing a story in the child’s mo ther tongue and in­
terspersing it with a small num ber o f Hebrew words. T h e ap ­
proach has a long tradition in language teaching and has been
applied to Hebrew instruction as well. In the United States this
approach was adop ted by Abraham H. Friedland (
Sippurim Du-
Leshoniyim,
1935) and by William Chomsky, who described its
2. For example,
metek
(sugar),
nikrah
(jelly),
sa’adot
(pins). See my study “Spo­
ken Hebrew in the ‘New World’ (1620-1880),”
Leshonenu la-Am
(Nisan-lyar,
1987), p. 417.