Check out this article about Brandeis University cutting their Hebrew major (HT: James Davila). Here are a couple of portions relevant for readers of my blog (emphasis mine):
Ringvald believes that the lack of students who choose to major in Hebrew is a result of the former major’s structure, which required students to take Near Eastern and Judaic Studies classes taught in English.Those classes include a foundational course in Judaic Studies and options such as Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew and Modern Hebrew literature. Though they often analyze Hebrew texts, such courses often serve as deterrent to students looking for total Hebrew immersion.
“Our population, their goal is to be able to function in the language. . . . But when they have to spend a semester not taking Hebrew, but taking another course about Hebrew and content related to Hebrew and it’s not in Hebrew, they feel they might lose the fluency,” she said.
“I’m not interested in taking the Introduction to Judaism class. It might be interesting and fascinating, but my goal in learning Hebrew was not to improve my Judaism; it was to improve my Hebrew,” Sinnreich said.
These students get it! You don’t learn a language by talking about it in English. You learn by immersing in it and using (listening primarily) it. What an amazing idea–“to be able to function in the language!”