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The Research Blog—Hebrew and Jewish Studies


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Hebrew Education on the Map: The State of the Field Internationally—by Rina Kreitman

By uclhwis, on 3 March 2016

Abstract: Institutional approaches to, and requirements of, foreign language may vary globally but can be  summarized as follows:

  1. Foreign language is a part of the requirements for any Bachelor’s degree (many American academic institutions use this model).
  2. Foreign language is required by a department or a program for a major (for example: German department may require varying degrees of knowledge of German. A Middle East department may require knowledge of Arabic, etc.)
  3. Foreign language is not required at all for graduating.

Tracks (2) and (3) may coexist in the same institution since students, who are not attending a specific program, may not have any language requirement.

Hebrew as a foreign language is offered in many institutions globally. In a system like (1) it is one of the languages offered by the college and students may select to take it just as they may select any other language such as Chinese, Russian or any other language. In such systems Hebrew has fared well but has  suffered a deline.  In a system like (2) Hebrew is usually and generally required by Jewish studies programs. In  such a system it may compete with Yiddish but usually only if the university offers Yiddish. In  most, but not all, institutions where (3) is the model, Hebrew may not be offered at all.

In this talk I will offer some data about enrollment in various Hebrew programs globally (US, UK and Australia) as well as strategies which various Hebrew programs adopt to increase enrollment in their midst. I will introduce approaches offered by different program coordinators to increase interest  in their programs and entice students to take Hebrew in academic settings.

We will further explore the different assets and tools at the disposal of coordinators globally and how they differ. For example, in Australia and the UK, the examination and entry system into college can be harnessed to boost numbers at the university level. Such a system, which barely exists in the US, cannot be used in the same way and thus, different approaches must be taken, as we will see  in the talk.

However, many languages with meager enrollments, which are not able to attract more students and grow, must take yet another approach. One of the new techniques adopted at Columbia University and currently shared by too few institutions is the shared electronic classroom. The shared electronic classroom is a new tool which involves exploiting current technology to deliver lectures to a wider range of students. This new technology can be integrated into all institutions and advance the  pedagogy of less commonly taught languages including Hebrew.


Bio: Rina Kreitman graduated with a B.A. from Tel Aviv University in 1999. She completed her M.A. (2002) and Ph.D. (2006) in Linguistics at Cornell University. Her research focuses on phonology, acoustic and articulatory phonetics, morphology and language acquisition. She continues to research and publish her linguistic work in various professional journals. She has presented in conferences such as Laboratory Phonology and at the Chicago Linguistics Society conferences among others as well as NAPH and AJS. She has taught Linguistics at Cornell University, Bar-Ilan University in Israel and at Emory University. She has taught Hebrew at Cornell University and at Emory University where she served as the coordinator of the program. Currently, she is the coordinator of the Hebrew program and a lecturer in the program at Columbia University in NYC.

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