Page 121 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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HARAMATI / HEBREW TEXTBOOKS
113
NATURAL APPROACH
As indicated, the translation approach was cu rren t in lan­
guage teaching for many centuries. However, at least from the
16th century on there was those who opposed it because it d if­
fered from the process o f acquiring a mo ther tongue. At various
times the re appeared educators and thinkers like Luther,
Montaigne, Comenius, Locke and others, who recommended
the forsaking o f g ramm ar drill for language instruction in a
natural way. But it was not until the middle o f the 19th century
tha t the time became ripe for crystallizing the new approach.
In ternational commercial interests developed that requ ired the
knowledge o f foreign languages fo r oral communication.
Among teachers there was a growing awareness o f the need
to base language instruction on psychological principles. The
first to make use o f a natural method was Gottlieb Heness, ini­
tially in Germany as early as 1841 and then in the United States
(1866). Before long there arose private schools for the teaching
o f foreign languages, especially to tourists. Among the best
known was that o f M. Berlitz, who established a school for lan­
guages in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1878.
T he Natural Approach did not exert any marked influence
on schools in the United States, even though a number o f texts
that stressed conversation were published. However, it found
suppo rt among language teachers in Europe and at the end
o f the 18th century influenced some teachers in Palestine where
the revival o f Hebrew as a spoken language was being fostered.
Actually, the first attemp t to teach Hebrew by this method was
made even ea rlie r ou tside o f Palestine by Nissim Behar
(1848-1931), who as a studen t o f the Teachers Seminary o f the
Alliance Israelite Francais had learned how to teach French ac­
cording to this approach. In 1873, when he served as the p r in ­
cipal o f an Alliance school in Turkey , he convinced one o f his
teachers to try to teach Hebrew by the Natural Approach. The
experim en t proved to be a success and when Behar arrived in
Jerusalem to head up an Alliance school in 1882 he decided
to continue with this approach. He enlisted the help o f Eliezer
Ben Yehudah in teaching Hebrew without recourse to trans­
lation. When Ben Yehudah had to give up teaching because
o f health reasons the work was continued by David Yellin and
Joseph Meyuhas.