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Would you let your students use Accordance for biblical language finals?


R. Mansfield
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Accordance is "a game changer for biblical language finals," says Roger Nam in "Another Look at Final Exams," a recent blog post from Stories from the Front (of the classroom).

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I am not a college professor, but a CPA. In my profession there are things you need to know (memorize etc.) and things you need to know how to look up and get the correct answer. I imagine it is the same with Seminary and Bible Colleges. Depends on the class and the objective. Education should train for real world experience, and bible software is an integral part of that for most in ministry.

I think they should teach research using bible software as a core requirement or implemented into core classes for the things you need to know how to look up and get a correct answer.

 

Apologies in advance if my background diminishes my opinion.

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John, I think that is a very apt analogy.

 

Most pastors today see teaching and preaching as a very small part of their job, something they do only a few hours in a week that is filled with many hours of administration, visitation, counseling, business, meetings (of all kinds), etc. Most seminaries keep this mind as well, however much those of us who specialize in Biblical Studies wish it were otherwise. Simply put, today's pastors have little time in seminary to acquire a biblical language and even less time in the pastorate to maintain it. Good resources, including Bible software, can help bridge the gap.

 

While I recognize the current reality I describe above, I personally long for a a return to an emphasis on the pastor as expert Bible teacher/preacher. Many of the things taught from pulpits today have no biblical basis.

 

Bible software can also be a great asset to the expert, mind you, but s/he will use it in an entirely different way.

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Having stated my opinion about this a few times now, it is probably unsurprising that I'd say "no" without a doubt when it comes to teaching students that haven't mastered the languages yet. As such, I didn't want to make a post here until I saw Dr. J's comments: I strongly agree with his point that Accordance could help pastors getting into the original languages again and use them in their work.

 

As with the scenario Dr. J mentioned, it is often the case where I live as well, with the only difference that students are pretty much forced to work with both Greek and Hebrew for several years if they wish to become pastors. Other than that, it is the same phenomenon: They have a tremendous workload with a lot of it being legal paper work and administration etc., so they're almost always running short of time, giving Greek and Hebrew low priority with good reason. I do know of a few stubborn individuals that still take the time to look at a few lines of Greek every now and then, but that is it. Having spent so much time learning these languages only to "lose" them is a pity, so I see no problem with using Accordance in that regard.

 

With kind regards

 

Peter Christensen

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I will never regret the time I spent in college and seminary learning Greek. In fact, with Accordance's help I am still able (14 years later) to do a rough translation of the Greek, when I am preaching from the NT. I find it valuable to those sermons.

 

I did take Hebrew in seminary, but was never able to work on keeping it up, so I cannot even read it now. Accordance is a gargantuan help as I am able to dig into the Hebrew using Strong's & G-K numbers.

 

It would have been nice if my seminary had ensured that I was taught how to work with a Bible software program (my seminary Greek prof showed us Accordance in class one day). Fortunately, Dr. J's podcasts have helped fill that gap showing me how to efficiently get the most out of the limited study time that I have.

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  • 1 year later...

If I was a professor the answer would be no. Having the answers in front of you seems to remove the reason for having an exam in the first place.

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The topic is interesting because it parallels the shift in the physical sciences as tools became available to deal with the complex and repetitive tasks  involved in numerical calculations. In the earlier decades of my schooling, we were first taught the use of logarithm tables and slide rules as a means to speed calculations. Often a few questions on exams would involve complex (read more real world like) calculations that would evaluate ones ability to use the tools, but most questions were oversimplified scenarios that could be solved by mental math so that more concepts could be examined instead of spending so much time on proper use of calculation tools. The availability of affordable scientific and business electronic calculators in the 1970's allowed a shift in testing to questions involving realistic situations and the application of concepts to the proper solution as well as a meaningful analysis of the results. In my field of chemistry, we teachers assumed that students would have calculators with libraries of equations and data to apply in the testing environment, so we simply changed the nature of the questions to a higher level of abstraction that evaluated the ability of the student to use the tools in a much more realistic scenario. It was interesting to observe our students memorizing the math and data, not by short term mass practice, but over the term simply by using what needed to be applied to the greatly increased number of problems we now required the students to complete. At the same time, the classroom setting matched more closely the actions of chemists in their day to day working environment. For those skills we wanted the student to demonstrate by only their recall and understanding, we had portions of the test on which calculators were not permitted. 

 

If the tools match the working environment of the professional, there are advantages to using these tools in the classroom setting for both the learning and evaluation function.

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Never. Ever. Over my dead body. 

 

Within the context of language coursework, expectations should reflect what can be reasonably accomplished w.r.t. learning the language and the testing should reflect that.

 

Beyond the classroom, use of tools like Accordance is fine, of course, though if not used very carefully much use can actually be an obstacle to the mastery of the texts and languages  (as Dr. J. and Peter Christensen allude to). No offence to Accordance, of course. I use it all the time, but I also had to learn the old fashioned way, with pencil and lexicon (back in the dark ages, pre-Accordance!). And I still expect this of my own undergraduate and graduate students. I don't even allow Accordance in the my advanced text seminars, except for on my laptop. ;-) 

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Beyond the classroom, use of tools like Accordance is fine, of course, though if not used very carefully much use can actually be an obstacle to the mastery of the texts and languages ...

 

I'll "like" that, although I've learned an awful lot of Hebrew while staring at those syntax diagrams...

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When I took my comps, we were allowed to use print lexicons. I only brought print copies of BDAG and HALOT (print copies were sold after comps since I had them in Accordance). Some guys brought stacks of lexicons, which I felt was over the top.

 

One of the students taking comps mentioned at the break how helpful his analytical lexicon was to him. I told him that when they said we could bring a lexicon, they probably didn't mean analytical lexicons. I think he was afraid of getting in trouble (I would have certainly not told on him--to me, that was his business), but I saw him put the analytical lexicon in his backpack before the break was over. 

 

All that to say, instructions ought to be very precise as to what a student can use and not use. 

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Dr. Holmstedt, I do understand the need of self sufficiency in language coursework! Is there a point in your program at which electronic tools would be taught/demonstrated? Just curious.

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Rick -- lexica for comps?! We were allowed a pencil for comps. And about 3 hours into one of my comps, my hand hurt so much, I decided to take a break and take apart my mechanical pencil for the heck of it -- which caused one of my peers to break into a snickering fit -- shows how stressful and insane our program was. I'm meaner -- I only let my students use wood pencils. 

 

Solly -- when they start writing research papers. For undergrads, this isn't until the 4th term (or later) of Hebrew. For grads, it's right away (our MA and PhD courses are the same).

 

Susan -- you're learning grammar/syntax when staring at the diagrams. That's the really useful part of the visual part of the database (thanks to Roy Brown for that!). But you're not learning vocab or getting a near-native feel for the use of language, genre, etc. 

Edited by Robert Holmstedt
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I also recommend my students not to use Accordance (or other Bible programs) for their first rough prep of a text, never mind the final, and I do not allow them to use it in class. Searching for the forms the "old fashioned" way improves your retention. 

 

I suggest using Accordance only in the second stage of detailed analysis where they may need to search for parallel structures, explore the context of a particular word, check the versions for a textual issue, or have quick access to the grammars/dictionaries.  

 

That said, Robert and I teach in environments where the goal is a high level of comprehension, even fluency as much as that term can apply to a dead language.

 

And I did get to bring a lexicon into my Hebrew Bible comp, though I was given a large unlabelled section of text that turned out to be Haggai. . .

Edited by Peter Bekins
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.....you're learning grammar/syntax when staring at the diagrams. That's the really useful part of the visual part of the database (thanks to Roy Brown for that!). But you're not learning vocab or getting a near-native feel for the use of language, genre, etc. 

 

.... Searching for the forms the "old fashioned" way improves your retention. 

 

With regard to development of that 'near-native' feel, though, it seems to me that one of the most important components is the sheer volume of text read. When I read in Accordance on my iPad (without English parallel), if I run across a word I don't know I can resolve its meaning in ~2 seconds, which allows me to move on and keep my mind in the flow of the text.  (I usually force myself to identify the root and the parsing before I click to see the gloss, which adds another ~3 seconds.) As a result, I get through a lot more text than I would if I were using a paper copy and a lexicon (.... and a.... pencil?). It may not be the best technique for retaining new vocab, but it seems to me that the most important thing in that regard is seeing a term repeatedly in different contexts, which naturally follows from reading a large volume of text.  

 

None of this has anything to do with the classroom setting (which I know nothing about), of course. I just think there are some ways in which Accordance tools can be a valuable asset to language learners long before they start writing research papers.  

 

Or maybe I'm just lazy.  :o

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Hi Robert, Peter,

 

But you're not learning vocab or getting a near-native feel for the use of language, genre, etc. 

 

 

 

That said, Robert and I teach in environments where the goal is a high level of comprehension, even fluency as much as that term can apply to a dead language.

 

Near-native feel and fluency are really my goals with these languages. So, with all due caveats of course, how do each recommend acquiring such facility ?

 

Thx

D

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Susan--reading lots of text is indeed the best way to get a sense for the language, and if you can resist leaning on the instant details great. I would still encourage my students to put aside some time for reading without a net. In other words, just you, a BHS, a concise reader's lexicon, and some parsing charts. If you don't recognize a form after a couple seconds, then do the work of figuring it out from the lexicon and charts. That mental effort pays off. (BTW, I have also found that students are starting to lose the ability to recognize Ketib-Qere and other features that are particular to the printed BHS due to the predominant use of electronic texts). 

 

Daniel--other than reading and reviewing their elementary Hebrew exercises, I have three main exercises for my students to raise their base level of comprehension: 1. Memorize small chunks of text and perform them orally. 2. Print out small sections of text stripped of the vowels (this is an export option in Accordance) and then vocalize it. 3. As a combination of the two, spend 30 seconds or so memorizing a small portion of text and then reproduce it from memory. 

 

As a dead language with a limited corpus, it is difficult to really create a true immersive environment for biblical Hebrew, but finding creative ways to produce Hebrew is a key to internalizing it. 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

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Hi,

 

I came from the same sort of tradition as Drs. Holmstedt and Bekins, mine via a teacher from U of Wisconsin who had won the Hebrew award there, influenced by a(n insane) Jewish tradition where fluency was the goal. Since I registered for beginning Hebrew, Donald Carson advised me to drop two of my five courses, which I did, and I’m glad I did.

 

While everyone will define fluency differently, I find it a challenge to stay fluent. Some methods become stale after a while, so I have to think of other ways to challenge myself. To add to/agree with Peter’s list, here are some of the things I have done:

 

After I graduated with my MA, I spent four months going through the first 1200 pp of BHS with a pencil and BDB, about 10 pp/day. I wrote the -10 words in the margin, numerical parsing in the body of the text, etc. Looking back, that intensive experience paid the most dividends.

 

Rapid reading with a paper BHS, even without looking everything up. Sometimes you can jog your memory by just reading. And, you always learn something. Some theorize that slowing down and looking up everything is counter productive to learning a language.

 

Reading out loud.

 

Memorization.

 

Up to this point I didn’t own a pc. I got my first one in 1989, so then I was able to use a variety of media - paper, Bible Software programs on pcs, and eventually on mobile devices. Using a variety of Bible programs leads to different reading experiences, e.g., reading tagged or untagged unpointed texts, texts with different fonts, including paleo-Hebrew, texts with different formats, and texts with different “instant details” mechanisms, some of which allow me to re-read the verse, etc. while waiting. And, the advantage of reading on a mobile device is you can read anytime, anywhere, which I always force myself to do.

 

Reading unpointed texts. Re Acc, I posted an unpointed Hebrew Bible on the Exchange. Since there is no tagging, you have to use a dictionary, or a parallel HB. Either way, you don’t get the morpho-syntactic information immediately.

 

Reading other kinds of Hebrew - rabbinic, medieval, and modern.

 

Reading the NT in modern Hebrew.

 

Immersing myself in a living Hebrew tradition, in my case, a Ph.D. in a Jewish Studies Department.

 

Continuous learning and re-learning, including using Acc’s syntax database.

 

There are probably more, but you get the idea. I found a pearl of great price, and while I didn’t sell everything I had to buy Hebrew stuff, I haven’t been able to buy everything else I wanted. :)

 

Regards,

 

Michel

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Hi Peter, Michel,

 

  Thanx for tips. I have done little bits of some of these. I am only just beginning to use Acc to read Hebrew having worked so far from books and recordings. More of that in my future it seems. I've done a little memorization. I'll do more. The modern Hebrew thing I have a text for so I'll play with that and I have also been working through a modern Hebrew kids primer which is fun - had word games in it. Need more Hebrew word puzzles. Was thinking of writing a word search generator for Hebrew and Greek. Used to do these all the time as a kid.

 

  But basically, lots of Hebrew, all the time. Thanx again.

 

Thx

D

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I agree with what Pete and Michel wrote.

 

I was looking for a bit I heard, but couldn't find it. I *think* it was from Cyrus Gordon's book A Scholar's Odyssey. At the risk of not remembering this accurately, I'll try to summarize. In an undergraduate course on the Bible he noticed his professor reading from a Bible unlike his. He asked him which translation it was, but the professor showed him that it was the Hebrew Bible -- the fellow was translating it on the fly when he quoted it. Gordon asked him how he could attain such a knowledge. The professor's response was to start reading in Genesis. Skip every word he didn't know and simply continue. So he did that and came back to the professor to ask what he should do next. The professor's response -- do it again.

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Skip every word he didn't know and simply continue. 

 

Doing that, I could read the Hebrew Bible in about 20 minutes.

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I agree with what Pete and Michel wrote.

 

I was looking for a bit I heard, but couldn't find it. I *think* it was from Cyrus Gordon's book A Scholar's Odyssey. At the risk of not remembering this accurately, I'll try to summarize. In an undergraduate course on the Bible he noticed his professor reading from a Bible unlike his. He asked him which translation it was, but the professor showed him that it was the Hebrew Bible -- the fellow was translating it on the fly when he quoted it. Gordon asked him how he could attain such a knowledge. The professor's response was to start reading in Genesis. Skip every word he didn't know and simply continue. So he did that and came back to the professor to ask what he should do next. The professor's response -- do it again.

 

Thanx Robert.

 

Funnily enough I'm working through Rod Decker's reader for Greek and the method he uses there is about 5 passes over the text, starting with read it aloud and see what you understand without any assistance.

 

Thx

D

 

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