Academics & Research / News

Hebrew lecturer engages students with language and culture

Students in Sari Havis’ Hebrew classes cook Israeli dishes during a class outing at DU’s Knoebel School of Hospitality Management.

Sari Havis, a DU lecturer of Hebrew, doesn’t want her students to just learn Hebrew — she wants them to experience the language.

It’s the reason she makes sure her students interact with Hebrew and the Israeli culture in memorable ways outside the classroom.

During winter quarter, Havis took her 24 students to the kitchen at DU’s Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, where they cooked traditional Israeli and Middle Eastern dishes including tahini, tabouli and shakshuka. The students had to read recipes in Hebrew and could only speak Hebrew while they were preparing and eating the food.

“It was so fun to hear them say things like, ‘Give me the onion’ or ‘Cut the tomato,’” Havis says.

She incorporates a wide variety of hands-on, real life experiences in her class. Last fall, Havis’ students attended an Arab-Hebrew film screening at DU’s Center for World Cultures and Languages. Students enjoyed a full Middle Eastern dinner while an alumna from DU’s Arabic program belly danced.

Havis, who came to DU in fall 2010, also assigns her students to write and perform real-life skits that relate to the subjects and vocabulary they’re learning — such as shopping at the supermarket or speaking with a landlord about an apartment for rent.

She says students also meet her at Jazzman’s for coffee outside of class.

“I invite them to have coffee with me and just visit,” she says. “It’s a way for them to apply everything they’ve learned as they use the language in a real-life situation.”

Havis has students practice emailing her and their peers in Hebrew as an opportunity to use the language, as well.

“Initially it was an assignment,” she says. “But now I’m getting email in Hebrew even when it’s not required.”

“I really enjoyed Sari’s class,” says former student Kelly Picune. “I thought the different outings were a lot of fun and a great way to experience Israeli culture as well as become better friends with my classmates.”

Havis plans to repeat the outings in future classes, and adds: “Nowadays, life’s about application and these activities show them Hebrew is a viable language and what they learn is worthwhile far beyond the grade.”

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