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Mother Tongue vs. Father Tongue: Your Key to Mastering a Foreign Language

What are the two prevalent methods for learning a foreign language? It turns out "mom" and "dad" aren’t just your parents. They also represent the two key techniques adults use to learn a second language. Which will be your chosen path to fluent conversation?


Ever wondered why at UAB we insist on speaking only in Hebrew? Or pondered, "Why can’t the grammar be explained to me in English?" or "Can I quickly use Google Translate?" These are among the common queries we get at UAB. And we totally get it – sitting in class, diving into a new language, and engaging all your brainpower just to comprehend what the instructor is saying. However, this method, as challenging as it may seem, is indeed the most efficient if our goal is to converse naturally. This method is termed 'learning as a mother tongue'.


Imagine a mother teaching her infant. She might ask, "Do you want the ball?" while pointing at it. The child realizes that object is called a "ball" and responds affirmatively. We adopt a similar approach at UAB. From the very first lesson, instructors speak solely in Hebrew, using mime, images, and more to clarify concepts. Skeptical about its effectiveness? Check out the video to see the rapid progress for yourself.


Learning as a 'mother tongue', otherwise known as immersion, is distinctively different from learning as a 'father tongue'. In the latter, a language is taught through the medium of another language. For instance, throughout Jewish diaspora years, Hebrew might be taught using Yiddish, Russian, German, or Arabic. Sadly, many language schools still adopt this method, significantly hampering the speaking abilities of students.



A quick history lesson: Roughly a century ago, when Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his peers decided to revive spoken Hebrew, they opted for teaching Hebrew in Hebrew. Even subjects like science, math, and history were imparted in Hebrew. Children faced challenges but gradually internalized the language, subsequently teaching their parents. The mission? Transition from Hebrew as a 'father tongue' to Hebrew as a 'mother tongue'.


It's true that adults unfamiliar with a foreign language might never attain the proficiency of a native speaker. However, you can certainly achieve fluency by learning Hebrew in Hebrew – the very essence of UAB's approach and a tradition we are proud to uphold.

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